Devotional Thought: A Theology of Recreation
I once heard a story about an umpire at a major league baseball game. As the story goes, in between innings the umpire took a baseball, one that was scuffed up and unable to be used for the game, and gave it to a young kid in the crowd. But instead of just tossing it in the kid’s direction and moving on, as is usually the case, the umpire had a special set of instructions for the child. He said, “I want you to take this home, but don’t put it in a case or on a shelf. I want you to play with it. Baseballs are meant to be played with.” I believe that there is something we all should connect with in this story, not because it is about America’s Pastime, but because it reflects a theology of recreation.
We American Christians are not known for having a very good theology of recreation, not just because this one doctrine has gone largely unnoticed, but because for the most part we don’t have a robust theology of anything. We compartmentalize our lives, drawing lines between sacred and secular pursuits. We assume that theology only pertains to what happens at church, not our everyday activities. We find no significance in our vocations because we do not have a theology of work. We find ourselves wanting to be “called into ministry” because we do not have a theology of homemaking. And we cannot fully enjoy our times of rest because we do not have a theology of recreation.
So, what then is a theology of recreation? It is recognizing that God is Lord over all of our actions, including our play. It is understanding that God created the world and deemed it “good.” That means that if we properly comprehend His creation in our lives we can enjoy the fruit of His labors. We tend to think of creation as referring only to nature, but God also created the human body, as well as human ingenuity. In our society these two forces combine to create such enjoyments as baseball, yard work, hiking trails, and even the hammock. Once we obtain an understanding of a theology of recreation we can enjoy all of these for what they are: a way to honor God with our time.
The obvious critique of this is that there are much more important things than recreation, such as evangelism, promoting justice, and protecting the innocent. And we should never become so concerned with our own pleasure that we neglect these godly callings. Too often we can tend toward apathy and fulfilling our own selfish desires instead of taking up these causes. But, as Believers who have surrendered our lives to Christ, we must find balance in our lives. Sometimes playing baseball on Saturday allows us to more effectively love our neighbor on Monday.