The case for being bored.

Abide: (verb) to remain; continue; stay: 
Abide with me.

When I was a kid I dare not utter the words "I am bored" in front of my parents.  Doing so ensured that I would be given a 'reason not to be bored', as my mother put it, in the form of chores, most likely cleaning my room; a daunting task. As many other parents do, I have begun to do and say the same things that my parents did (that of course I always swore I wouldn't), including banning any talk or thought of being B O R E D. But, I am here today to contradict my own actions and to venture, with you, into a new way of thinking. I am here to make a case for why we should embrace being bored and teach our children to do so too.

I've been married for 11 years now, and a mother for most of those. Before being married I was in grad school and before that, college. I tried to calculate recently how many different homes I've lived in since starting college and came up with the rough estimation of 'umpteen'. The 11 years of marriage have been filled with lots of moving, having children, miscarriages, the long illness and death of a parent and many job changes. Thats not to mention the daily hectic life of having small children (all boys) and usually having 2 or 3 jobs at a time. All that to say, I've been real busy.

Sound familiar? I bet you have a similar story.

You would think with so much change I would gravitate toward normalcy but thats not how my brain works. If anything I'm the queen of new ideas. Not a day goes by when I don't have a new plan for changing the world, or helping my children act like people that might one day resemble decent adults, or losing weight, or finally finally coming up with a plan to keep my house clean.

Stop laughing.

So, last year things finally came to a head. I realized I couldn't continue to do it all so I took it to prayer. God was slooooooowwwwwww and subtle in His response, as per usual, and I finally realized He was asking me to give something up. Of course it was something I didn't want to give up. Eventually, I did. It was hard, but I was obedient. I had done it, I had created a space that God could use to help me find some balance and much needed peace and my family would be relieved that I didn't have to be mom-zilla ALL. OF. THE. TIME. Problem solved.

You know what they say about the best laid plans though, don't you?  I immediately began to try to fill that space with other things, a new project perhaps? volunteering? learning a new skill? well, maybe not but I definitely should be chalk painting some piece of furniture in my house, right?  I continued to be frustrated at myself and with God for not making all of these things easy and to help them come to fruition. What is His deal, anyway?

Then, one day this summer as my 3  year old was having a flailing fit about not being able to do some crazy toddler-ish thing like stick a knife in a socket or sit on top of the china hutch to watch tv,  I watched as my husband simply put his arms around him, held him close and said "It's ok. Daddy's here. Just be still." Of course it didn't work, the kid is 3, but I was taken aback by the fact that his response to chaos was a calm, consistent presence. Not long after that I found myself in prayer having a mental 'flailing fit' with God about all the (totally reasonable and not crazy) things I want to do and suddenly I smiled because I could almost see him with his arms around me, assuring me of His presence and urging me to be still. "Abide in me", He said. Stop moving, stop worrying, stop trying to fill up time and space with 'all the things' and events and ideas and just ABIDE.

Even when my plans are not big and scoped for the world, I keep occupied. If you're like me, you fill your 'free time' with work, entertainment, plans, food, people, chores, food, social media, did i say food?  In May I started a new diet and that space that I would normally fill with bored eating became open. Simultaneously I realized that having a job in social media management makes it hard to put up boundaries with my personal life and technology. So, I decided, at the example of my friend Katie, to carve out some time in my week for a 'technology sabbath', where I put the phone down for a specific block of the day and actually, you know, look at my children. Slowly I was taking out the distractions and space fillers. Suddenly I found myself with this feeling repeatedly coming up in me that I had not felt in a long time and that I could not identify immediately, until I realized it was, you guessed it, boredom. I was ashamed at first. What adult gets to be bored? I should be cleaning somebody's poop, or meeting a deadline, or feeding someone who will hate my food or catching up on the Netflix Original, "The crown" (which, if you haven't...).  I could hear my mothers words in my mind. "I'll give you a reason not to be bored!" I felt guilty and silly and lazy so I kept it to myself. I continued to feel the need to fill that space, but here I was, on a diet and fasting from technology. I had nowhere to turn. Except to God. So, I sat and prayed. The grace in that moment was tangible for me. I didn't have to 'do' anything. I just needed to 'be.' To let Him hold me. To abide. 

That word has become the theme of my prayer for the past many months. Each morning as my mind resists 'boredom' and turns to ideas and plans and busyness, I return to it. Abide. Abide in me. Be still and trust. Be bored, with me. Every day when I want to fill my time and emotions with the 'stuff' of the world, He says to me, "Abide in me. Abide in my love."

I'm not gonna lie, it sucks a little bit. I feel like a recovering addict and of course, I still spend most of my time ignoring that invitation. But, in the rare time that I am obedient I find myself able to be present in ways that I have almost forgotten I was capable of. I can look my children in the eyes and be with them without hurrying them off so that I can finish whatever task I'm doing at the moment. I can see them and they can see me seeing them. I can stay out of the pantry.  I can keep my composure in an overwhelming parenting moment. Why don't I just listen all the time then? Same reasons my children don't listen to me all the time, I guess; concupiscence, habit, a life of comfort and entertainment all to be summed up as, we are afraid of being bored. We don't even know how to do it. We live in a society of productivity and white noise and we do not have the capacity for silence. We have become accustomed to filling up that space that can only be filled by God with anything and everything else. But, I am learning, at a painstakingly slow rate, that I am my best and most fulfilled self when I am 'bored'.

“All that we call human history--money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery--[is] the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.” C.S. Lewis

To be continued with, "Is it ok for Church to be boring? or "What happens when the music/homily/Mass is lame? and the mega church down the street has free childcare and a coffeeshop." 

Or something to that effect. It's a working title :)

Until then, take a minute and enjoy this...


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