Three Invitations Boredom Brings
I have three young children at home (1 girl, 2 boys). My daughter just started grade 1 this week, and she loves having to take a bus to get to her school. Five days a week we wake up before the sun, ingest some sort of breakfast food, and make the trek out to meet the bus. Four days a week, we pick her up around 3pm. But Friday is a half day, meaning that she needs to be picked up at noon.
This is our schedule and routine. Mix in friends coming over for dinner, extra-curricular activities and family time and it becomes a full experience. There is seemingly little room for boredom, but without fail, one of the kids will vocalize with great conviction that they are bored if they don't have something to do or are asked to spend some downtime each day. Their response to moments of boredom makes me chuckle, cause I remember saying something similar to my parents when I was younger. In fact, I even thought that being bored might actually kill me one day. But guess what? It hasn't.
The question that I've been left to ponder is this: So if boredom doesn't kill you, is it really an ally?
While it's true that boredom doesn't actually kill you, it's always been difficult for me to identify a sense of value that comes with it. How can you measure something that is usually unwanted and find some sort of use or appeal for it? I'm just now beginning to see that boredom actually invites us into one of three spaces.
1. Creative Space.
Boredom is an invitation to be creative. I can remember some of the most enjoyable moments I had as a child were when I was forced to utilize my imagination through play, work and even school. Faced with an opening in my schedule I had a choice, I could make the most of the free time that I had, or I could fret about not knowing what to do. Have you ever watched kids on the playground at recess? Their imaginations are running wild, creating new games, points of connection and experiences with their classmates.
As a parent, I now understand the challenge between saturating the schedule and leaving room for creativity. We extinguish the ability to be creative when we don't allow those under our leadership influence to taste boredom. So what if someone says that they might be bored, maybe they are simply asking for help in kick-starting their dormant imagination.
2. Spontaneous Space.
Boredom invites us into spontaneity. Sometimes being spontaneous has got me into trouble, but it has always provided me with a memorable experience. One of the greatest values I hope to pass along to my children is that we control our schedule, our schedule does not control us. We choose whatever rhythm of life we live into. It's true that external factors do have an affect on a life rhythm, but we still must choose how these factors will shape us.
Haven't you ever dreamed of doing something? What's stopping you? Time, or money? We can allow these external factors to continue to drive our routine, or we can rise about these temporary realities and allow whatever values we've adopted as our own to be the filter through which we experience the life we've been given. Spontaneity reminds us that life is a gift and not a chore. Do you embrace the invitation to be spontaneous that boredom has to offer?
3. Restful Space.
Boredom invites us to find rest. North American culture is built upon results and schedules. Our modus operandi often seems to orbit the death-stars of efficiency and effectiveness. Having 3 young kids I have experienced first hand that not having enough rest has a negative impact on my ability to parent, to lead and to live. Sometimes the gaps in our lives are intentional invitations to restoration through the practice of rest. Do you allow yourself and others to experience downtime for this purpose? Or are you completely fixated with the bottom line as dictated by efficiency and effectiveness?
The Bible contains many different stories about the human experience here on planet earth. One such story speaks of the concept of a drink offering. The practice existed where followers of God would offer a drink offering in His honour. These offerings were meant as gifts; signs of one's gratitude and thankfulness for the gift of life they had been given. These offerings were poured out onto the ground or other sacred space in ceremonial fashion as an act of worship. If you've ever poured liquid from one container to another, you know that you can adjust your pour rate in order to increase or decrease the speed the receiving container is filled and the pouring container is emptied. A good friend of mine once told me that our lives function in a similar way. Despite our best efforts, life here on planet earth will not last forever. Each life on earth symbolizes this concept of a drink offering. All of us have been given the gift of life, which equates to a certain amount of time that we will exist on this planet. It's our responsibility to control the rate of pour so to speak. We can empty ourselves in a splash, or in a slow steady stream. Boredom can be an ally in this experience; one that reminds us of who we are, what's important and how we are choosing to invest the time we've been given. Boredom doesn't kill you, but being foolish certainly will. How are you investing the time you've been given?