Dr. Barrett Mosbacker, PublisherI have a confession to make—I can be a workaholic. I’m not as bad as depicted in this picture but I have caught myself checking emails on my iPhone in less than appropriate places!
Work is good. God gave man work to do as a reflection of his image and as a statement of the honor that God bestowed upon us when he entrusted the earth to our care. Work gives purpose to life, provides a productive outlet for our God-given talents, and is a means to enrich our lives and those around us. Work was not the curse, work was cursed. There is a big difference.
Nevertheless, excess can make the use of God’s good gifts a curse or even a sin. Food is good and meant to be enjoyed. Too much eating is gluttony, which is dishonoring to the Lord and bad for our health. Sex is a good gift of the Lord. Sex outside of marriage or self-centered sexual activity within marriage is sinful and demeaning. Work is a good gift. Workaholism can be a sin and harmful to us and to our families.
As I contemplated my life recently I realized that I have workaholic tendencies. I am typically in the office by 6:15 to 6:30 AM, I work a full day without stopping, taking about a 15-20 minute lunch or having a working lunch meeting. I often have evening meetings or functions to attend.
When I am home in the evenings, I am responding to emails, even while “watching” television or I am working on the graduate class that I teach. I usually spend four to five hours on Saturdays writing articles (like this one) and preparing Sunday School lessons and faculty devotionals. Then, there is the pool to clean, the yard to mow, the shrubs to trim. This doesn’t even count the three miles of brisk walking I do six out of seven days.
I don’t mind work, in fact, I like it. The Lord has given me the honor of serving the students and families of Briarwood Christian School. I have a wonderful wife and three beautiful daughters. The Lord has “blessed the work of my hands.”
Nevertheless, it occurred to me that I was not living a holistic life that reflected what it means to bear God’s image in all of its dimensions. While work is a fundamental aspect of life—it is not life—there is more to life than work. I came to the conclusion that my life was out of balance.
What to do? I decided to restart an old hobby that I had abandoned 25 years ago—photography. Although my skills are rusty, they are beginning to return—slowly.
The Benefits of a Hobby
There are many benefits to a hobby. The benefits of my photography, many of which are applicable to many hobbies, are:
- I have learned to see. There is wonder and beauty all around us but we miss it because our minds are preoccupied. Photography forces me to actually see. In fact, even when I don’t have my camera with me, I find myself looking much more closely and creatively at my surroundings, the people milling around, expressions on their faces, patterns in architecture and nature, and different colors of light, shadows, and reflections.
For example, in the past I would have missed the simple elegance of the wine bottles and glasses sitting outside a store in Birmingham. I would have walked by with hardly a glance. Instead, I stopped and took a picture. I was surprised by how nice a picture such a simple sidewalk display could make.
Likewise, I would have never walked into a local hardware store to ask permission to take pictures. I told them I needed practice taking difficult indoor pictures in preparation for my trip to Lebanon and Germany. I promised to send them copies of the pictures to use anyway they desired. They readily agreed. To my delight, I was able to capture several interesting pictures from the hardware store.
I would have missed the intensity of this great grandmother’s conversation with my wife.
I would not have seen this sad sight because I would not have been out and about looking for subjects to shoot (pictures of course!).
Again, my photographs are not particularly good, as I say, I’m rusty. The point is that photography has given me “new” eyes—eyes that see more of life around me.
- I am less one dimensional. The nature of my work causes me to focus on the analytical. Photography gives me the opportunity to explore the artistic. Photography can be thought of as “painting with light.” It involves light, color, composition, perspective, patterns, and much more…all elements of art as depicted in the photograph below that I recently took.
This focus on the artistic encourages me to explore the more creative side of what it means to bear God’s image. After all, God is both the master artist and the master physicist.
- I am able to combine my interest in the technical along with developing skills in the artistic. Digital photography correctly using an advanced DSLR camera is very technical. I find the ability to combine both the technical and the artistic to be invigorating. To be a good digital photographer requires an understanding of some physics, light, focal length, depth-of-field, white-balance, filters, photo editing software, and more.
- My hobby can make me a more rounded and interesting person (Lord knows I could use the help!). Conversations can be more interesting when they extend beyond work, family, and the news. Photography also gives me more illustrations, literal and literary, to use when teaching lessons or making presentations.
- More personal quiet time. Photography gives me the opportunity to “withdraw” from the rush, from work, from responsibility. I am able to meditate, to consider, to think, and to savor. I have time to create, not merely to do. There is no “to do” list and no deadline.
- It encourages me to make new acquaintances and forge new friendships. I have found myself walking up to strangers and engaging them in conversation, usually to ask permission to photograph them or their children, as in the photograph below. I did not know the parents but I asked them to take photos of their girls selling doughnuts in front of a local store. They were delighted to allow me to take photographs of the boys (of course I promised to email them copies, which I did).
The picture below was taken during the state championship baseball game. I would have never noticed this little boy at the baseball game or his contemplative expression if I was not thinking about finding good pictures. Many parents are delighted to receive my email with the free picture of their child attached.
I expect to have the same experience when I travel to Lebanon and Germany this summer. I plan to do a lot of “street photography,” which will require that I initiate conversations with people that I would otherwise simply walk past.
You may already have a hobby or you may have other activities that add variety and interest to your life such as golf or scrapbooking. If you don’t, I encourage you to consider finding a hobby that will stretch you as a human being and as a servant of Christ. After all, he made us to enjoy him, his creation, and the life he has given us.
Are You a Workaholic?
Your life may be far more balanced than mine has been. To check, take this “Workaholic Quiz”:
Twenty Questions from Workaholics Anonymous
- Do you get more excited about your work than about family or anything else?
- Are there times when you can charge through your work and other times when you can't get anything done?
- Do you take work with you to bed? On weekends? On vacation?
- Is work the activity you like to do best and talk about most?
- Do you work more than 40 hours a week?
- Do you turn your hobbies into money-making ventures?
- Do you take complete responsibility for the outcome of your work efforts?
- Have your family or friends given up expecting you on time?
- Do you take on extra work because you are concerned that it won't otherwise get done?
- Do you underestimate how long a project will take and then rush to complete it?
- Do you believe that it is okay to work long hours if you love what you are doing?
- Do you get impatient with people who have other priorities besides work?
- Are you afraid that if you don't work hard you will lose your job or be a failure?
- Is the future a constant worry for you even when things are going very well?
- Do you do things energetically and competitively, including play?
- Do you get irritated when people ask you to stop doing your work to do something else?
- Have your long hours hurt your family or other relationships?
- Do you think about your work while driving, falling asleep, or when others are talking?
- Do you work or read during meals?
- Do you believe that more money will solve the other problems in your life?
If you answered 'yes' to three or more of these questions, there is a chance you are a workaholic or well on your way to becoming one.(Source: Workaholics Anonymous)
If you need more balance in your life—consider a hobby! It will make you a more rounded individual, give glory to God, and be a more effective leader.