What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?
Everyone goes through seasons of boredom. We get bored with our work; we get bored at home. Our hobbies sometimes bore us. Even spirituality can be boring from time to time. Prayer can feel like a chore, and the Bible, which we know is supposed to good for us, can put us to sleep faster than Bea Arthur explaining the intricacies of growing older.
We try not to complain when we find our lives boring. We’ve grown accustomed to others telling us to shut up about our boredom while they are presumably either in crisis or having a grand old time and don’t want it ruined by our apathy. But when your whole life becomes boring, when you feel persistently bored with who you are and what you are doing, that’s a real problem.
This boredom, however, is symptomatic of a deeper issue, like most other surface evaluations. Boredom is a sign of disconnectedness. We become bored when we think that what we do doesn’t matter or is not important enough to make a difference.
For example, many people work only in order to provide food, clothing, shelter, and all the basics for their family. That kind of work, in my opinion, is actually very noble and selfless. They are not working because they love to; they are working to take care of their family. That’s the good kind of old fashioned. But at some point the work becomes so dull and mindless that our boredom with work transfers into a boredom with our entire existence. We wonder if the kids really appreciate what we’re doing. Or if they care. Or even if we care that they care. We entertain thoughtless fantasies about just quitting everything and moving on, with or without the people who love us.
The danger of that kind of boredom is the possibility that we might take reckless action, in the process ruining the lives of those who depend on us.
The solution, I suggest, is not a change of circumstances, vocation, or whatever, but an investigation into why these things matter in the first place. To get through our boredom, we have to remember why we’re doing what we are doing. We have to get back to the street level, to re-discover our job, our family, our joys, and our chores from the ground up.
To return to our previous example, the only way that the nine-to-five grind can be de-bored is by focusing on love and dreams. When you realize that the work you do has a direct connection to the people you love, your boredom dissipates. The longer you think about your beautiful daughter and all that she needs to feel like she’s loved and safe and worthy of attention, the less boring your work seems. Furthermore, if you have something specific in mind—a dream about saving for a vacation or a surprise birthday present or a weekend away with your spouse—then you can connect everything you are doing toward working for that goal.
When my wife was in college, her dad promised that whatever money she earned over the summer he would double. Dollar for dollar, whatever was in her account on September first. Consequently, Carmel worked the most miserable jobs, provided they had the best pay. She never spent any money on herself during the summer (she would buy clothes on September second), and she spent as little as possible on gas and eating out. She had a dream of not running out of money half-way through the second semester, and by connecting everything she did to that dream, she was able to conquer the boredom of tree planting in isolation in Northern British Columbia.
Pastoring, like anything else, can be boring work too. But I only need a quick jaunt through some of the notebooks I keep to remember why I do it. I save the kind letters and encouraging emails, and whenever I am tempted to think that it doesn’t really matter how I spend my time or what I do, I take a quick look at those books and I am right as rain.
You need to find ways to love and dream in order to keep yourself connected to why you’re doing what you’re doing and why it matters that you continue to do it, so that you don’t wake up one morning, quit your job, and join the circus at age 52.
This post is from Seasons of Christian Spirituality.