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An American Commandment: "Thou shalt not be bored."
Finding out what you are enslaved to can be hard. Lent helps us see that.. Earlier this week, we already learned that we are enslaved to punishment and violence. But what else? Lent being during awards season and right after the Super Bowl is indicative of our obsession with being entertained and the fear that we have of ever getting bored. And don’t get me wrong, I love an excuse for a good party, I might even go to a party that’s celebrating the Academy Awards this weekend! That's some real meta-entertainment.
But it seems like we are bombarded by information, entertainment, and demand constant stimulation for our endless appetites. Go ahead, sacrifice a little, and see if your appetite is shrunk a little bit. See if your beer belly full of entertainment gets reduced a little so that you can actually see what God is doing around you.
Our propensity to be bored is a great indicator of our frailty as humans and our need to be entertained. In fact, you might be a little bored by reading this—in fact, my blog posts tend to be a little longwinded and drawn out. I’m not appealing very well to the two-minute-Youtube video audience, I know. It’s a long time to stay still and not get your Facebook feed if you do that kind of thin anyway. Go ahead and click over to it and see what else is going on, if you need to. Download Pocket and read it later. Whatever.
But what’s it like when you close your Facebook account (and not to make a statement or be holer-than-thou, but perhaps as a private sacrifice)? Put your phone on airplane mode? Turn off the TV? Unsubscribe from Netflix? Don’t go out to eat and drink so much? What happens to you? That crippling sense of boredom of staying in on a Friday or Saturday night: the sacred day of entertainment. What if you stay in to pray or read or just be alone instead of scrambling to find something to do or wondering what party might be happening that you weren’t invited to or demanding that we go dancing because you have got to unwind. If we really strip ourselves of all the mechanisms we’ve put up to not just distract us, but to keep us entertained, I wonder what’s left in us?
That sense of emptiness is important. That anxiety that some of us get when we don’t have anything to do on a given night helps us know ourselves. What do you we do with that knowledge? What are we learning about ourselves during Lent? What’s getting loosened?
Some of you are thinking—I’d do anything to have a “boring” night alone at home. Our busy lives sometimes don’t even give us the “luxury” of being bored. Well perhaps we can choose differently, life more simply and simplified, in order to be more present to things that God has called us.
Obviously, our definition of boredom and the reality of our lives couldn’t be much different. Most of us just get bored at work in front of a computer—imagine that if you are a 10th Century individual, let’s say, you have the knowledge and recorded history of everyone that’s ever existed to your finger tips and you are bored. Our constant stimulation makes everything seem boring. Have you ever clicked and Wikipedia only to be trapped into a vortex of clicking and clicking into the next article? All of a sudden you’re learning about mandrills when you started reading about Battlestar Galactica.
Try to get unbored this Lenten season. If your sacrifice has caused you to be bored, try to turn to God and see what he tells you. Here are three practical suggestions:
Read a book. Get away from the computer and your smart phone. The Pastors of Circle of Hope have put together a list of books that are entertaining, but aren’t meant for entertainment. They might very well deepen you understanding of God, yourself, the Bible, the world around you. You might become a fuller person by doing something so simple. Even reading a novel ain’t so bad in a world dominated by Netflix and 20-minute comedies. Reading for more than the time that it takes to watch a show not only increases your attention span, it might make you a better TV watcher anyway!
Have a conflict. Be serious enough about your relationships to help them work. Some days, I just wish my relationships were boring—that there wasn’t something intense going on. But they aren’t, and of course the advantage, is that my life is almost never boring. There’s something going on and we’re working it out. Even if you are bored in one of your relationships, talk about that. See what you are avoiding and try to address it with your spouse, friends, significant others, and housemates. A lot of times, we’ll let the brokenness in our friendships continue because are busy with something else. Go ahead and talk. I mean don’t go started fights for fun, but keep your relationships healthy.
Learn about yourself, know yourself, be the beloved of God. Live out of your fullness and serve out of it. Know who God made you to be. When you are distracted by seemingly endless supply of information, try to find out who God has made you to be and live out of it. When we fast, perhaps we best know who we are, by what our weaknesses are, what our addictions might be, what we might be sensitive to. And when we get that far, we might be able to go even further with Jesus.