Good work and the gift of a hobby

This year’s pandemic has seen an astonishing surge in the hobby industry.

Extending well beyond binge-watching your favorite on-demand show, businesses have seen upticks and backorders for jigsaw puzzles and every other sort of art, craft, and board game. Even bread making has seen historical levels of renewed interest.

The general public’s concern over the economic disruption, staying safe, and extended lockdowns at home have all necessitated the search for a positive focus on something new, some relief from the daily stress of this moment.

Hobbies, then, can be a great option for many reasons, not the least of which is their overlooked ability to enhance our regular daily jobs.

When a bobby is born

I remember coming out of a tough season in life with stresses from work cutbacks and challenges, raising small children, and feeling spiritually and emotionally dry. Life had lost its taste and little inspired me.

This brought to mind earlier parts of my life where something captured my imagination and pulled me toward a sense of joy, intrigue, or adventure.

I must have been about seven years old when I received a new telescope for Christmas along with a children’s book on astronomy.

Seeing the craters of the moon from our backyard through that telescope stirred something deep inside that never left me.

It’s no wonder that the job that attracted me out of college was working for a high-end aerospace company building autonomous solar-powered spacecraft.

The work-hobby connection

I realized after years of management and being less and less directly involved in technology development of our spacecraft, much of the interest in my work had waned and a true passion for the work itself had never truly been activated.

The required daily work we do in and of itself often develops limitations in engaging our imagination, emotions, five senses, and perception of purpose and value.

Outside of work, I found myself planning astronomy outings to the desert, tracking news on space programs, and reading books on what the intelligent design community had learned in relation to astronomy and God’s amazing creation of our universe (Gen. 1:1).

This dovetailed wonderfully with my long-term interest in the intrinsic value of daily work and how it relates to the Christian faith.

The significance of our projects at work started taking on a whole different dimension and new challenges and opportunities engaged me in ways I previously had not imagined possible.

So what happened? 

I added an experience to my life that included an interest area outside my workplace specialization and explored experiencing God’s world and my life in new ways.

In doing that, I found adjacencies and intersections with my daily job that I did not see before or expect. I ended up meeting and working with designers on the navigation side of the spacecraft with a new interest in orbital dynamics and things I had been introduced to for fun in astronomy. Breadth of exposure, curiosity, and interest were critical complements to specialization.

David Epstein, in his recent and excellent book Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World, points out that those who excel in their fields by far are most often those with both depth and breadth. This is counterintuitive given our hyper-specialized, head-start culture.

We might assume the “Tiger Woods” model of early and long-term focus and dedication to one goal is the only path to excellence. Epstein points out that studies have shown broad interests and experiences of learning, exploration, and training actually far outstrip the benefits of early-start, singular focused specialization in the vast majority of cases.

In addition, broad interests and experiences help form new communities and opportunities to foster desperately needed refreshment and rest as well as reignite creative energies that have been dormant for years.

Fruitful hobbies

Interestingly, the more uniquely aligned these avocational activities are with our personalities and quirks, the more effective they will be at awakening the untapped image of God in us that the world needs.

I recall Elizabeth Moyer’s blog post on this a number of years ago providing a helpful insight:

Sometimes God calls us to write comics, arrange flowers, deejay, or bake as a full-time vocation. But sometimes our life-giving passions and outlets for creativity come from unexpected and even irregular activities. They are still part of our calling.

It’s the exception more than the rule to work in a job that utilizes all of your strengths and passions. Understanding that God can call us to be excellent in multiple avenues gives us real freedom. We don’t need to strive to channel all our talents into a single outlet. Nor do we need to stifle our passionate and creative hobbies.

In fact, I’ve always had several outside-of-work interests — including theology, philosophy, music, and astronomy — and dipping in and out of each has sometimes made me dangerous and distracted as my family will be quick to testify.

But being fully human and living out God’s call on our lives as his image-bearers necessitates tending to those life-giving creative activities along the journey.

If you happen to be one of those with unexpected schedule flexibility this season, give streaming and social media a rest and explore some new interest, or maybe an unattended old one, as God’s renewing gift of life to you.

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared at faithandworkla.com.

Topics: Christian Life, Issues Facing Workers, Rest and Leisure

About the Author

Steve Lindsey is the executive director of the Center for Faith & Work Los Angeles. As an engineer at Boeing for nearly 40 years, he often worked toward seeing how his work served God’s greater purpose for the world. He and his wife, Margaret, established the CFWLA in 2017 to help people reframe vocation and understand how all work, no matter the industry, has meaning and purpose.