Too Much Down Time
They learn to be idlers, going about from house to house, and not only idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not. 1 Timothy 5:13
I once enjoyed working the overnight shift in the Emergency Room. It was busier at the beginning, but then I had more idle time at 3:00AM. When I wasn’t working, I didn’t stay up all night, but I did stay up late, sleeping in late. I liked this too, because it afforded me more time to myself after everyone else went to bed. Those weren’t healthy, productive hours. Those were the hours when my self-control fell apart and I was most likely to indulge in self-destructive impulses. Those were the hours that I relapsed. Those idle hours were the hours that destroyed my life.
Now, in recovery, I’ve had to recognize these unhealthy patterns and change them. Where I once stayed up late, sleeping in late, I now go to bed early, waking up early. Where I once lived a chaotic, undisciplined schedule, I’ve now realized I need a regular routine. Where I once lived for my down time, I now keep busy with family time, exercise, work, and recovery/ministry activities. Late night hours, alone in front of the TV or computer weren’t healthy for me, and so, I’ve changed my schedule so that I never find myself in that position anymore.
In today’s passage, though Paul addressed young widows, his point about idle time applies to all of us. Too much idle time simply isn’t healthy. When we have nothing to do, it’s not usually our habit to fill our time with productive pursuits. Often, we simply let nature take its course, which doesn’t lead to seeking God’s will, but rather, our own.
We do need time to rest and relax. For most of us though, how we handle that time can be a problem. A teenage boy regularly left alone in front of a computer screen will quickly find pornography. The one seeking recovery who doesn’t have to work because he’s disabled in his addiction, won’t likely use his abundant time in a healthy manner. Most of us need structure and schedule or else, when we have free time, we simply find ourselves sitting on our phones for hours at a time.
Lack of self-control has been one of my life problems and allowing myself too much down time hasn’t been healthy. I require discipline, which means I must make purposeful choices ahead of time. If I simply let nature take its course, I don’t usually use my free time in a healthy manner. If, however, I make productive choices ahead of time, then I use my free hours to pursue the life for which I was created.