Hobbies get a bad rap these days. And justifiably so to a certain extent; too many Christian men these days disappear into their “man cave” for hours at a time essentially abdicating their responsibilities to their family and their church. But that wasn’t always the case. It used to be that a man without a hobby was an oddity and that those hobbies were in some way productive. And those were better days, so let’s return to them. So this dose of monthly manliness is an exhortation: be a man, get a hobby.
Not all hobbies are created equal, so some basic guidelines need to be observed. If it is not something that your grandfather could have done, it’s not a man’s hobby. Yes, that rules out video games, fantasy football, and binge watching Netflix; but that’s kind of the point. At the heart of a man’s hobby is a skill set that must be learned (and preferably take a life time to master) and can be taught to someone else. A hobby should be done to the glory of God and approached as an act of worship. It should be something providing opportunities for discipleship. A man’s hobby never distracts from work, family, or church obligations. And in case you were wondering, golf isn’t a man’s hobby. If you don’t have a man’s hobby, here are some ideas.
John – Fly Fishing
For me, this is one of the most pleasant and challenging ways to spend a day. All of creation tells of the glory of God, and few things cause me to quiet my mind and focus on His creation like standing in a stream, listening to the water, noting the way it breaks and flows around rocks and the way the shadows play on the water, while scanning the opposite bank looking for a trout stealthily sipping insects off the surface. And once that trout is spotted my brain kicks into gear. What kind of insect is on the water? How big are they? Do I have a match in my fly box? If not, what can I use to attract the fish? And once all of those questions are answered, my brain quiets again and my body takes over, I make the cast, mend the line, and Lord willing set the hook, win the fight and land the fish without harming it. As a catch and release angler, I then rest (and if necessary resuscitate) the fish and release it back into the stream. Then the mind kicks back in as I catalog the place, time, weather and water conditions, the fly used and fish caught. What could be better than that?
Pro tip – If you spend the day fishing, take your wife out to dinner, or make dinner for the family that night.
Jason — Coffee
When I think about John’s criteria for a hobby, one thing comes to mind: coffee. There are really two kinds of coffee drinkers in the world: “I want my caffeine” and “Coffee is an experience.” I’m the second one. Coffee comes from a fruit. It must be processed, removing the bean from the fruit, then roasted. Each region produces different flavors. Ethiopia Yirgacheffe usually produces a juicy, berry quality cup. While a Brazil might be more chocolate-nutty flavored. But the roast is important too because the longer a bean is roasted, the flavor profile changes. So I roast my own beans medium to highlight the natural distinct flavor of the bean. (Starbucks roasts extremely dark and one cannot taste the region, just the roast). After roasting and curing, there are multiple ways to prepare coffee. I make every cup individually. I don’t know how to use a K-cup, order at Starbucks, or use Mr. Coffee. My brewing station looks like a science lab. Coffee is like biblical exegesis — a science and an art. It requires patience, learning, testing, and consistency to reduplicate. But instead of taking an entire day off to pursue my hobby, I can spend 20 minutes a day with it (10 minutes per cup) and use it alongside my other responsibilities.
Pro-tip: If you want to get into great coffee, you need freshly roasted beans (they lose their flavor over time) and you need a great grinder. When it comes to the grinder, get quality. You don’t buy a Mercedes then put a lawn-mower engine in it. The grinder is the engine.
Matt — Cycling
Puritan congregations in early American history often gave their pastors small farms, including some livestock to go with it. That might seem an oddity, but it was actually done out of love. They recognized the intensity of pastoral labors, and the potential for long-term health problems brought by a lifetime spent in study. A farm forced the pastor to perform some degree of physical work for the sake of his own health. We’re far removed from that context, but the intensity of pastoral work remains the same. That’s why I make my hobby something physically exerting: cycling. I’m not talking about riding the clunky, heavy, and cheaply built bikes purchased at a department store, but rather the fine machine of aerodynamics and precision, built to size by the experts in a bike shop (mine was hand made by a shop in Boulder, CO). There are few things so good for the mind as rigorous exercise, but the fast and smooth ride on a bike makes it enjoyable. You get to see a lot more scenery, and you always have the chance to sit back and take it in while you breathe the fresh morning air. I have found many of those rare, quiet moments of solitude, mixed with perspiration and higher oxygen intake, to bring clarity of thought for many a theological conundrum. But FYI, it doesn’t count as “manliness” if 1) you don’t wear the appropriate attire (yes, I mean tights. It’s about practicality here, and there’s nothing manly about shorts that keep blowing up making it look like you’re wearing two parachutes on your hips; nor is there anything manly about trying to dismount as your shorts snag your saddle. It makes for awkward moments in front of people gawking at the intersection) and 2) you don’t do your own maintenance. Learn the mechanics of your bike. There are few things as satisfying as a flawless shifting experience because you knew how to adjust your derailleur. And that’s something you can teach your son to do too.
Pro – tip: Get up while it’s still dark so you can hit the road at dawn. You’ll want to beat the traffic or you’ll lose the tranquility. Plus, that way you can be back in time to join your family for breakfast.
Allen – Inshore Fishing
There are not many hobbies that I do not enjoy. I love all types of sports, hunting, fishing, shooting, weight lifting, cycling, and sitting and reading a good book. If I have to pick, I probably love to fish more than anything else. I’ve had a little 14ft aluminum boat for years now. My dad gave it to me. Living around the brackish water means plenty of good fishing for red fish, speckled trout, and flounder. This area can also make fishermen crazy as there are so many variables with fluctuating tides, water clarity, temp, etc. Since my boat is small, I take my kids out one at a time. It’s great. You have a captive audience for a few hours and can redeem the time even when the fish are uncooperative. There is nothing like being on the water at first light on a calm day. Kayak fishing is also a great way to fish. The tranquility is hard to beat.
I like to practice catch, filet, and release onto a piping hot cast iron skillet. If you are looking for a winning way to cook just about any fish, blacken it. Start where all great recipes start, with some melted butter. You’ll need a cast iron skillet on a camp stove (outside is best — the smoke is brutal). Pick up some Old Bay or Zatarans Blackened Seasoning. Lightly baste the filets in butter, coat them generously with blackened seasoning, then plop them on your skillet burning super hot for about 2 minutes per side (depending on thickness). Fresh fish, of course, is always best. My son here may be for hire.
What hobbies do you enjoy?