Do Nothing On Purpose

Popping a DVD into the player, we snuggled up on the couch for a family movie night. Our movie choice might not be like what most might choose, but before you judge it too quickly like I initially did, I have to say this movie highly exceeded my expectations, and that I would definitely recommend it for your next movie night. It is Disney’s Christopher Robin. 

In addition to bringing up very happy childhood memories and making me smile at the lifelike animation of the stuffed animals, the movie has great themes about family and what’s really important in life. 

One of my favorite elements of the movie are the simple, yet profound sayings about life that Winnie the Pooh throws in at several times throughout the story. 

For example, a recurring theme is that Winnie the Pooh spends most of his time doing nothing, while the grown-up Christopher Robin is obsessed with his job and too busy to spend time with his family.

“People say nothing is impossible, but I do nothing all the time!” Winnie the Pooh says to Christopher Robin, bringing out the giggles from all of us watching from the couch. 

And then he adds very slowly, as with intentionality and truth:

“Doing nothing often leads to the very best something.”

I’ve been doing a whole lot of nothing lately. Or so I thought. I’m used to being busy, maybe a little too used to it. This past month has found me mostly at home with very little to do, and just when I was getting restless and telling the Lord about it, he revealed to me that this downtime is kind of like a long sabbath, and that if I will listen, he will teach me something in it. 

Ever since college when I was introduced to a world of activity and learned how much I could squeeze into one day, I’ve become addicted to motion. To activity. To accomplishment. To busyness. Always being on the go gave me a rush. Somewhere along the way, I gained a sense of value that comes from getting a lot done. But I didn’t realize this about myself until I wasn’t going a thousand miles an hour and suddenly felt a little disoriented. 

Down time? No worries, I’ll fill it. I’ll just fill it with social stuff. That’s my go-to way to fill empty space. Except I ran into a problem up here in Indiana. I don’t really know very many people, and the few I do know work full time jobs, plus it’s consistently under 20° which means my daylight hour activities are…limited. More empty space. 

I was also telling the Lord about this, and he answered. 

Don’t be social, be intentional. 

So I started to learn that this prolonged sabbath is a gift. I spend 90% of my year wishing I had more time to sleep in, to read, to cook for fun, to linger, to have long conversations. And here I was, being all awkward about the free time I’d been given and complaining to the Lord about it. 

He reminded me to be intentional about preparing for Africa. Be intentional about time with my family. Be intentional about time with him. Be intentional about creating better habits. 

It made me ask a question: How do I spend my free time? 

For a while, I was spending a significant amount of time watching shows and browsing social media, which honestly made me feel kind of wasteful. So I got off social media and stopped watching my shows, and I started being more intentional about how I used my free time. I saturated my time in books, music, and podcasts that mean something to me and make me want to know Jesus more. I had longer personal worship and meditation and study, more time to pray and fast. What had been a season of boredom started to become a season of intentionality and rest and seeking God. 

Instead of feeling bored, I started to feel alive and rested and ready and hungry for more of God, yet complexly satisfied in everything he was giving me. I was seeking him, and he was showing himself to me each day and teaching me new and wonderful things in his Word and through the things I was putting into my heart and mind. He was drawing me back to himself, and “in his presence there is fullness of joy.” (Psalm 16:11)

Now if I were to make a wild guess, I would say that you probably don’t have a free month to stop your busy pace of life, drop everything you are committed to, and take a 30 day spiritual retreat. Trust me, neither did I. I didn’t choose it either, it was forced upon me, and I am so unexpectedly thankful. I just took a month long training course in how to do nothing and be intentional about it, and since you may not have time to take it, I’m going to share with you the biggest takeaway. 

We all have free time. The ones who say they don’t are the ones who have already filled it. Not only do we all have free time, but we also all choose how to fill it. 

So how do you spend your free time? 

What encourages you and draws you closer to Jesus? Do those things. 

What drags you down, distracts you, or leaves you feeling empty? Sacrifice those. 

What are the things you know God is asking you to do? Prioritize those things and do them with all your heart. 

What are you using as time fillers? These may be good things even, things that you think or even say that God would want you to do, but it’s tricky business because I have filled my time with a good thing that God did not really ask me to do. It was just something I wanted to do to boost my self-esteem or fill my time (because I feared down time). If you can identify some things like this in your life, maybe reconsider how much time you spend doing them, and practice saying no so that you can give a better yes to something God really is leading you to do. 

These ideas aren’t new. I didn’t come up with them. You have probably already heard buzz words about creating margin or living more simply. Well this isn’t a buzz word, but it’s a good word: sabbath. The Bible actually talks quite a bit about it, probably because God knows how much we need it and how prone we are to ditch it.

“There remains a sabbath rest for the people of God, for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. Let us therefore make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience.”
Hebrews 4:9-11

Indeed, doing nothing often leads to the very best something. 

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