Work can be fun.
And if you don’t believe me, ask the gardeners. I am not a gardener. But man, do gardeners love their work. A couple that my husband and I consider dear friends beam ear to ear when they talk about spend hours mulching and weeding under the hot sun. A neighbor of ours will spend the entire weekend getting her flowers and vegetables just-so. And although these activities require a fair share of labor and sweat, the process is often the reward – all the gardening people I know talk about how much they enjoy it.
We all have something like that: a thing that seems like “work” – that requires consistent labor and effort – but that we enjoy, deeply, and that we are drawn to in order to relax, to find joy, to express ourselves. My challenge to you for the summer, then, is to find something like that in your spiritual life. What joyful spiritual work can you engage in this season? What can you sink your spiritual teeth into in order to enjoy the process as much as the payoff?
Here are seven suggestions:
1. Read a new Christian book. Pick up that one you’ve been eyeing for ages. If you’re low on cash, plunder your local library or a nearby used bookstore. Find a book that challenges you, that addresses a particular struggle you’re having, or that helps break down a part of the Bible you find difficult. Extra points if it’s a new author or a classic that you always wanted to read and simply haven’t. And hey, if you don’t know where to start, I have a review section here.
2. Break your isolation. If you’re a Christian, it’s easy sometimes to get absorbed into an insular Christian bubble where everyone around you all the time is a believer unless you’re doing some sort of mission work. Reach out to your community! Enjoy a workshop at your local library or work with a local mentorship program. Engage with a local food pantry or charitable organization that isn’t affiliated with your church. Go to your local city pool or a local festival, or visit some nearby museums or points of interest. This is a great way to get to know where you live, and to get to know people around where you live.
3. Attempt consistency. I am willing to bet that even on our best days most of us lack consistency in one aspect or more of our Christian lives. Use the summer to improve on that, and make a project of it. Want to be the sort of person who attends services more? Make an effort to be more consistent in your attendance. Want to be the sort of person who prays faithfully every day? Or who prays over the same request faithfully for a particular period of time? Want to have a more regular Bible study, or a more regular ministry to others? ‘Tis the season. Look up habit-forming practices, set timers on your phone, get other people involved to hold you accountable – whatever’s necessary. If you establish good habits and consistency now, they’ll be ingrained by the time fall and winter roll around to throw your world into scheduling disarray.
4. Nourish a relationship. Maybe this means spending some special time with the kids that you wouldn’t normally get with them because they’re in school. Maybe it means making a weekly ice-cream date with your spouse. Maybe it means taking some time each week to visit a local senior in assisted living, or to make a phone call to your sister-in-law who lives across the country. Take a look at your life, identify a relationship that deserves some special care and attention, and make an effort to nourish it with love and effort.
5. Amp up your praise sessions. Turn the music up louder. Take a little trip to a beautiful place and spend some time thanking God there. Recently, I passed someone biking who was blaring praise music on his speakers as he rolled by. Rather than consigning your worship to church, home, or your interior life, take some time out of your day to worship in a special place or a special way. Even if it just means sitting by a fountain with God during your lunch break, it’s a nice way to align your priorities during the day.
6. Meet a need. Summer is brimming with opportunities to meet needs both large and small. Purchase or donate a fan for a local fan drive. Stop by the lemonade stand that your neighbor’s kids are holding and buy a big cup, even if you don’t drink lemonade. Clean out your basement or attic and donate some good but unused items to charity. Drop some bottled water off for the outside workers in your neighborhood or local area. Call up a local cancer or treatment center in your area and see if they have any needs or objects you might donate. Work a few hours at your local food pantry.
7. Apply a concept. I don’t know what God might be teaching you right now, but one of the easy downfalls of the Christian walk is to read about something, think “hm, that’s really important,” and then never, ever integrate it into your life. Over the summer, figure out a concept that God is making prominent in your life. Maybe He wants you to encourage others, or He’s teaching you to be patient, or you’ve been convicted that you don’t default to kindness enough in times of conflict or anger. Whatever it is, identify that concept and make it your goal this summer to apply it in as many ways as possible in as many situations as possible. Ask yourself: in this situation, how can I apply what God is teaching me? Training ourselves to live as believers is about a lot more than simply reading about or understanding the concepts of our faith – it means applying them and living them out in meaningful ways.
I hope that your summer is full of the joyful work that does not produce weariness, but rather great joy and satisfaction.