B.C. writer Cathy Mogus encourages us to spiritual reflection on our fall activity schedules
An abundant life is a balanced life. Those involved in the American and Canadian union movements years ago believed this. In the late 1800s, working conditions in our two countries were deplorable. Low wages, long working hours and poor working conditions made it impossible for people to live happy and balanced lives.
In the United States the union movement became known as the Eight-Hour Day Movement. Workers protested and rioted in order to make their lives more balanced. They pushed for “eight hours for work, eight hours for recreation, and eight hours for rest.” On September 5, 1882, the Central Labor Union in New York created a day off work for the working citizens.
In Canada the labour union movement was called the Nine-Hour Movement. As the result of the Toronto strike for a shorter work week, a parade on the first Monday in September became an annual celebration of workers’ rights. Different unions were identified by the coloured flags they waved. Labour Day was declared a national holiday in 1894.
Eventually these end-of-the-summer celebrations became more about transition than tradition. Instead of acknowledging the labour pioneers, most of us now see this day as the last barbecue, the last picnic, the last campout. It’s the last hoorah before a new academic or work year begins.
Summer's last hoorah
Christians often use this day to rest and connect with family and friends before we pick up the pace in our “run with perseverance [of] the race marked out for us” (Hebrews 12:1). After the summer holiday we return to Bible studies, prayer meetings, Sunday school classes, outreach ministries – to name just a few. The Labour Day weekend can be our time to take a deep breath before we jump into our many activities.
But what about those many activities? Will they give us the balanced and abundant life Christ has promised? Perhaps this would also be a great time to reconsider those plans. Maybe sometime during this long weekend we should take a serious look at our calendars.
First of all, do our commitments reflect our relationship with Jesus Christ? Has He given us these orders? I recall a time years ago when I was a Sunday school teacher, Bible study leader, kids’ club coordinator, church pianist and Christmas program director all at the same time.
One day during my devotions, I sensed the Lord nudging me to give up those obligations to spend more time with my next-door neighbors. He confirmed this when a lady in my Bible study told me she felt God was calling her to lead the group – my group! I like to think I contributed to my neighbours’ new faith in Christ because I was willing (after some agony and prayer) to listen.
Secondly, have we allotted time in our busy schedules for our family and friends? For me, it means having date nights with my husband, creating calendar space for my children and grandchildren, and assigning certain hours for my friends. Time is also set aside to write letters or emails to distant loved ones – and to text the far-away grandchildren!
And what about our leisure time? What are we doing with our supposed eight hours of recreation? Are we balanced in how much time we spend with our televisions, computers and phones? Do we use it to refresh ourselves physically, emotionally and spiritually?
Crosswords and laughter
When my 41-year-old daughter told me she laced up her skates to play hockey, I smiled. She managed a home for wayward teen girls full time, and felt this would be a fun way to release some pressure and get in shape at the same time.
We all need to pencil in “play” to our schedules no matter our age. A sport is only one option. It could be something as simple as walking, reading, doing crosswords or watching a movie. We need to figure out what it is we love to do, what makes us laugh and forget our troubles. We honour God by making time to enjoy the way He programmed us. Just as a father enjoys watching his children having fun, so our heavenly Father smiles when we are enjoying life to the full.
Of course we need to keep our bodies in shape to accomplish all the above. Leading a balanced life also means taking care of the “temples of the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:19) that God has given us. This is a challenge for me. It’s easy to sit in front of my computer hour after hour without taking a break. As this fall rolls around, I need to consider walking around our local park more. I may even try using my husband’s elliptical.
God's example of rest
And above all we can take time to “let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes” (Ephesians 4:23). God set the example for us by resting from His labour on the seventh day of creation. How do we spend our Sundays? Do we set aside a day to fellowship with other Christians, to reflect on God and to bask in His presence?
Have we considered making plans to attend a Christian conference or retreat? I was impressed with a friend who works full time, but scheduled a silent retreat for herself. She spent a short time in a monastery where talking was forbidden. This gave her a chance to pray, read her Bible and reflect without any distractions. She returned home spiritually refreshed and motivated in her service for Christ.
Whether we recognize it or not, how we schedule our time affects not only us but also all those around us. Balance can be maintained only if we make right decisions. As we contemplate how we will spend our time following Labour Day, we can make choices with confidence. Jesus promised, “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.” (Hebrews 13:5 NLT). We have something to celebrate!
Cathy P. Mogus is a writer in Richmond, B.C. A version of this blog post was originally published in Seek (Sept. 3, 2017) and is used with permission. Calendar photo by Gaining Visuals from Unsplash.