Learning to Love Recess



My mother was a very loving and generous Christian woman. She was also a very hard worker. To me it seemed like she worked all of the time. I remember asking her on various occasions, “Mother, don’t you think you need to rest?” Her usual reply was, “I will rest when I get to heaven!”  

That seemed to be my mother’s motto; however, she did take time to relax and do things that she enjoyed—quilting, crocheting, and scrap-booking.  Nevertheless, I internalized her “I will rest when I get to heaven!”  motto, exceeded her in sticking to it, and became a dedicated workaholic.

Isn’t that what the Christian life is all about? For many years, I thought so. Some days, I still live according to that unwise motto. Unless my work is done, I feel guilty about relaxing.  I resist naps; yet, the more I resist rest, the less efficient I become in doing my work. I need recesses in my day, but understanding what that means challenges me.

I have very effective work habits, but I don’t yet have very effective play habits. What is the difference?

A work habit is mostly about “doing”;
A play habit is mostly about “being”.

A work habit helps me produce things;
A play habit helps me enjoy things.

A work habit is mainly about structure;
A play habit is mainly about spontaneity.

Of course, creative work includes elements of spontaneity, and refreshing play can contain elements of structure. Finding the balance makes our entire lives enjoyable.

Structured work and unstructured play make, for me, a happy day.

As a child, I loved doing my schoolwork more than I loved recess. In fact, I hated recess. Why? During recess, my classmates argued about who had to have me on their softball team and teased me about my clothing and weight. I had no place to escape and eagerly waited for recess to end.

It was through academic success that I gained approval and acceptance—at least with my teachers. Being the best speller and the fastest reader did not make me very popular among the others students.

As I grew up, I thought that God was like my school teachers. To please him, gain his acceptance and approval, I must keep busy and excel in my work. Recess did not become part of my spiritual-life picture.

To earn God’s acceptance and approval through unflawed performance became my goal. This was very hard work. It required my full attention. There was no time in my day for a recess. Discovering that God’s acceptance and approval are gifts of grace gave me the freedom to take a work break; yet, for me, that was not simple and easy to do. 

Being a lifelong learner means learning to love recess as much as I love work.

This week I’ve been placing recesses in my days. Yes, more than one! I’ve already noticed a positive shift in my energy level, as well as in my joy level.


“Hallelujah!Thanks to God.
It is recess time!

I will sing a happy song,
Or write silly rhyme.

God does not command me
To work without a break.

To ignore my need for play
Would be a grave mistake.

I will go for walk–
Take a little stroll;

It makes my body happy
And cheers up my soul.

I’ll take nothing in my
pocket–not even a phone.

If I really want to,
I will write a poem.

It doesn’t have to rhyme
Or fit an accepted form;

I will sniff the fresh air
And stop just to stare

At the clouds in the sky–
Watch the way they roll;

Feel the rhythm of my heart,
As I create a dance.

I want to stay forever here.
May this moment never end.

At last, I’m learning what it
Means to love “recess time.”

10 thoughts on “Learning to Love Recess

  1. Love this post Jane. So glad you are learning to play and
    re-create.
    …and another thought on sleep that I just had today. The next time I or someone I know says they feel stressed, I am going to suggest they take a nap. There are so many
    benefits to getting enough sleep. The task will not look so challenging when you tackle it with a refreshed mind.

    • Thank you for reminding me of the benefits of sleep, Rosemary! I needed to hear your words, tonight. A nap does refresh my mind.

  2. This reminds me of the song by the Byrds that is titled “Turn, Turn, Turn” and based on Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. “To every thing there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven.” Your words are well said and important to remember.
    Thank you for your your blog. It is so refreshing.
    Debbie

  3. This rings very true for me. I learned to play when the work was done, too. There is value in that saying when it’s planting or harvest time, but even in seedtime and harvest, there are seasons of work and rest.

    Another way I’ve heard this said is, “I can sleep when I die.” I guess that’s the world’s version of the same saying. But that’s also a lie of the evil one. Cheating one’s self of sleep will eventually catch up with you.

    Thanks for this wisdom and the poem that so aptly captures the beauty of the balance between work and “recess time”.

    • Thanks for your comments Rhonda. Cheating one’s self of sleep is truly an unwise practice. God knows how much we need it and desires to give us rest.

      “It is useless for you to work so hard
      from early morning until late at night,
      anxiously working for food to eat;
      for God gives rest to his loved ones.” (Psalm 127:2 NLT)

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