Boring is a bad word
Are you bored? Is sheltering at home driving you crazy? Have you binged watched until you want to puke? Have you cleaned and purged every corner of your living space? I have heard that word more in the last few weeks than I have in quite awhile so I felt compelled to share my views.
One of the assignments I used to assign my TIU classes was a Creativity Calendar, where the students were to proactively plan something creative every day for 30 days. It takes 21 days to create a habit and then 6 weeks to make that habit “permanent.” The idea was to do something, however small, that was different to start to work out the imagination muscle, which for many had atrophied. Creativity is a muscle that grows stronger as it is flexed. And if we don’t flex it, it won’t move, as most muscles do not put themselves into action.
Since we are created in the image of the Creator we are all made in His creative likeness. Many people who say they are not creative are really just people who have ignored this reality or have narrowed the definition of creativity and imagination to people who dance and draw, in much the same way that modern Christians have reduced the majesty of worship to singing alone. God’s world is full of wonders and we have the great privilege and responsibility to communicate His beauty in many and varied ways. Additionally, creativity is contagious. When I hear stories of people in history who used it, I catch it. When I hang around so many creative people within so many different disciplines, I am challenged to behave likewise. For example, as the people I work with come up with creative solutions to and during this pandemic and share them, it inspires other creativity.
Being bored is a choice! We are all familiar with the experience of boredom: full bookshelves with nothing to read, hundreds of channels with nothing to watch on TV, forced stillness on a long car ride without distraction. It is the acute awareness of time’s passing. Even with the constant companionship of the internet, social media and 24/7 shopping, we are still bored! Having down time is sometimes necessary and a good thing as it pushes us to reflect and discover new things. While being still and restful is a healthy discipline, being thoughtlessly idle and lazy, or bored, is not a good thing. The former is restorative as we realign with the Creator and the latter is tedious and draining. The former gives spiritual purpose and the latter drowns direction and focus.
Being bored some would consider a sin. I don’t know about that, but I would say that is the sign of a shallow mind and the result of consumerism and an entitled attitude that needs constant entertainment and stimuli. “I’m bored” is a phrase that I consider to be in the same category as “You’re stupid” and “That’s retarded”. Offensive words of cursing that I do not say and I would not allow my kids to say when they were growing up. Have you ever heard, “if you don’t stop crying, I’ll give you something to cry about”? That is just nonsense. But, I would adapt it to say, “if you don’t stop being bored I will give you something really boring to do!” Any push to get unstuck, a swift kick in the proverbial pants, can start the creative juices flowing again. It reminds me of Brother Lawrence who committed to looking for God’s presence in every day and the discipline of doing all, even washing dishes, to the glory of God. When we say we are bored it feels like we are denying God’s value in us as He designed us for something more.
I think that imagination kills boredom. As we learn ways to illuminate creativity, we reflect the glory of the Lord. In fact, imagination may be the most godly work our minds do. It is the closest we get to creating something ex nihilo – out of nothing. Imagination and creativity are part of who we are as Christ followers, because to walk in another person’s shoes, to live compassionately, to be readily available, to pray in the name of the Lord is dependent on the imaginative love of the person who hears and obeys the whispers and prompts the Holy Spirit. Additionally, it is God-honoring to live like the King, Humor and creativity are in the same side of the brain and they both influence each other, building our joy and hope as we use them regularly.
When people “give up” something for lent, the idea is to “fast” in order to focus on the Lord and the holiest day of the year. The problem is that most people go back to whatever they went without as soon as Easter comes; they start eating chocolate or meat or return to facebook. That is all okay because none of those things is inherently wrong, and going without helps us remember to be grateful for things we would normally take for granted. I would like to propose that the purpose of lent is actually not about doing without for 40 days; rather it is about what we need to do or change. Is there a sin to confess, or a lifestyle choice to repent from? Is there something I can do to be more like Jesus, that I can keep doing for 40 years until He returns or calls me home? Since the COVID-19 crisis we have all had to think differently about how we treat others and how we care for God’s creation. This pandemic may last for more than 40 days and it definitely has the potential to be a life-altering event. At the very least, it shows us the things we have taken for granted and helped us to count our blessings.
Since we live in an over stimulated, busy culture bombarded by choices, activities and entertainment it is hard to recognize this abrupt halt as an opportunity to step out of a rut. It reminds me of the sensation of motion that lingers after a ride has stopped. It may take awhile to redirect our thoughts and activities but it really has been a blessing to have this season of rest. Time will tell if it is transformative or if we will just go back to our old habits after the pandemic goes away. But instead of giving in to idleness and apathy, join me in creating new things, renewing old habits, and living joyfully each day with a grateful heart. It sure beats boring.