By Adam Roe
I was recently sitting around the house on a Saturday afternoon in my customary t-shirt, socks, and boxers. It was one of those days when in a pinch I’d throw on shorts or jeans, but unless you’re answer-the-door-worthy, my attire isn’t changing.
I flipped through TV channels and found a University of Kentucky game. I grabbed a beer, made popcorn, and spent an hour alternately cheering and sneering the coach, the team, and the ghost of Adolph Rupp as UK lost yet again. I then transitioned to a Bob Ross video because my mind wouldn’t shut up, and I escaped into a world of happy little trees while Bob “beat the devil” out of his paintbrush. In retrospect, my one redeeming Christian use of time was taking a shower. Perhaps I remembered my baptism, but I don’t recall for certain.
Never once during that hour, and hardly during the day, did I think about Jesus. I didn’t think about counseling, preaching, justification, sanctification, or how God works through anyone or anything. I just watched basketball, drank beer, ate popcorn, and mouth-breathed while wishing I could live in the cabin Bob was painting.
Some theological friends attach faith-related importance to such moments. They call it a theology of rest. I call it sitting in front of the TV/computer/book because I just can’t stand being around people’s problems anymore. I love people. I work with people all week. Increasingly, though, I’m not looking for reasons to refresh that relate to preparing for Kingdom work. In fact, I don’t want any theological importance attached to my laziness. Sometimes I just want to be, and God-angles are forced, tiresome, and unnecessary.
It seems sometimes that Protestants struggle to reconcile faith with intentional laziness. Because our theological movement(s) are so Bible-centric, we perhaps have a regulative knee-jerk sense that our lives must be emotionally, mentally, and spiritually consumed by conscious applications of faith. We read almost everything in life through the lens of the Bible. As a result, even sitting in our boxers watching basketball must come from some sense of using our time in a Godly way.
What if, however, Jesus didn’t think about holy things all the time? Certainly, we know Jesus healed people, walked on water, overturned tables, and saved the world from its sins. There were about three years of ministry in between all that, though, and I wonder if Jesus ever just had those days where he slapped his head, reached for the wine, pushed the boat away from shore, and had his “everyone-get away-from-me” moments. Maybe Jesus didn’t always withdraw to be MORE spiritual in a solitary setting. Maybe he sometimes withdrew because spiritual leadership is hard, exhausting work and he just wanted to not think about it for a while.
Really, God doesn’t need us to be spiritual in every facet of life for Him to do His work. There may be days, and perhaps there SHOULD be days, when we acknowledge God in our prayers in the morning and evening, and then simply let God handle whatever comes to pass for the remainder of the day. Lounging can just be lounging, conversations can just be conversations, and work can just be work. If Christ’s sacrifice can cover all the sinful things we are, think, say, and do, perhaps it can also make room for spending significant amounts of time not being “spiritual.”
The irony is that I’m writing this article on my week of leave, for a religious blog. I suppose old spiritual habits are hard to break, but I swear I’ll redeem the time when UK plays again.
Adam Roe is an active duty Air Force chaplain who lives in Alamogordo, New Mexico. Post reprinted from MISSION:WORK at Patheos.