Go ahead, be bored

I’m a strong advocate for the importance of Sabbath – that is, taking one day of the week to rest. In today’s busyness it’s very difficult to find that time because when the body, mind, and spirit are constantly, regularly, moving from one task to another, we find the idea of rest is something that only sounds good in theory, but is formidable to actually put into practice.

Take for example the fact that my husband and I are in a season of transitioning out of a responsibility that we’ve carried and shared for the last two years. It involved caring of others and looking out for them, being creative about engaging them in activities, and it was a lot of behind the scenes work.

It was fun and fulfilling, but then our lives began to fill out in other areas and that came with new and weightier responsibilities; and just within the last six months or so it became very clear that something had to give – we were running ourselves into the ground.

After much discussion we finally arrived at the difficult decision about what to lay down. So here we are, winding down from a packed life schedule, and I have to admit it’s a little daunting to now have time and space to just be. Even though we prayed through the whole process to get to this point, the thought of having ‘free time’ leads to what feels like an inevitable question: “What am I going to do with it?

Or, like we say in Belize Kriol, “Da weh ah wa du wid miself?” (translated: What am I going to do with myself?“)

Part of the issue is, of course, that we link productivity and action to purpose. Many of us have been trained to think that we are only fully ourselves when we are ‘doing’. The other side of the coin is that sometimes we stay busy so that we don’t have to face ourselves, because who knows what we will see if we slow down and take a look in the mirror?

There are so many calls in the Bible to allow yourself time to not be so busy. A favorite of mine is this prophetic word from Ps 46:10a (NKJV), Be still and know that I am God. Once I saw it broken down as follows, and I’ve never forgotten it. I don’t always live by it, but it’s a seed planted within me that I try to remember to water and tend:

Be still and know that I am God.
Be still and know that I am.
Be still and know.
Be still.
Be.

Being still is the opposite of what everything around us is telling us to be and do; but I continue to maintain that one of the reasons to follow Jesus is because He is so counter-cultural. As a Christ follower you get to do things differently, not as everyone else around you is doing life. So when the world says to go, go, go – you don’t have to.

Peer pressure is a real thing. Not wanting to do soul-searching is also a real thing; but Jesus set the example for us by often choosing to leave the crowds and go off on His own. Some sweet words of His that remind me do the same came when He told His disciples, “Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a little while.” (Mark 6:31a NASB). What an invitation! But it’s one we don’t often accept.

As I contemplate the next season that will undoubtedly have blocks of empty time that I’m not accustomed to having anymore, I anticipate periods of boredom. My first reaction to that is panic – but then I remember my own words about Sabbath and rest – and remember that a part of actually Sabbathing is that there are always portions of those days that include boredom.

That kind of boredom has taught me an invaluable lesson: when you allow your body and mind to get to that zone of rest where you are totally bored, and allow yourself to stay there for a few of hours, something happens that sparks creativity and productivity that you didn't know you were capable of. In that boredom, good stuff rises to the top where you can access it and tap into it. 

Just to be clear, although I talk about this from experience, it is never easy to carry out. Being bored feels unnatural, and makes one listless; like, you must be doing something wrong, and your life feels out of order. My tendency is to rush to fill the hours with some doing, or watching, or scrolling.

But if I let the boredom just be, and let the minutes tick away into hours, awaiting, (and being sure of), the blooming that is about to take place, my body, mind, and spirit, go into a deeper rest, and then emerge with the good stuff I hoped was there but wasn’t able to tap into without the help of boredom.

This probably sounds crazy to you. Who wants to be bored? Fear of missing out, FOMO, is also a real thing. So, we fill our lives with all the things to keep us from being bored, not realizing that it is something we need. I challenge you to regularly embrace a little boredom, allow it to be a part of your rest, and see if it won’t produce some good outcomes in your life.

Embracing boredom is counter-cultural, different from what we were all taught about how to use our time. It’s a wild concept, but it is one that I have found from personal experience to be so fruitful. Much creativity has been able to bubble up from places hidden by busyness, and because of periods of boredom, has been able to rise to the surface when the mind, body, and spirit are rested.

To put this all into context, the thought of “the space between the logs” encourages me as I consider how to make use of the unscheduled time that I foresee coming available to me in the next few months.

FIRE
by Judy Brown
What makes a fire burn
is space between the logs,
a breathing space.
Too much of a good thing,
too many logs
packed in too tight
can douse the flames
almost as surely
as a pail of water would.
So building fires
requires attention
to the spaces in between,
as much as to the wood.
When we are able to build
open spaces
in the same way
we have learned
to pile on the logs,
then we can come to see how
it is fuel, and absence of the fuel
together, that make fire possible.
We only need to lay a log
lightly from time to time.
A fire
grows
simply because the space is there,
with openings
in which the flame
that knows just how it wants to burn
can find its way.

So if you see a break in your schedule and you have nothing to do, nothing you feel like doing that isn’t going to break your bank or require too much of you, welcome that empty time – let the time pass with nothingness. Allow yourself to feel listless, and do nothing about it. Choose to believe that rest is taking place even though you can’t see it; and that creativity and good ideas are going to come to the surface just because of your investment into boredom.

Go ahead, be bored. It’s okay. It’s all good…for you.

Debbie Mendoza, April 2022

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2 comments

  1. I do try to rest on Sundays, but I’ve still been feeling like I need to fill the time with something. I think I’ll be aiming for boredom this Sunday… even on Easter!

    Like

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