“You can sweep the floor if you want.”
My parents never had much sympathy when I was bored. As kids, we learned quickly not to go to them with complaints of nothing to do — they just might give us a list.
I haven’t complained of boredom in years, but as I think through how we as a culture spend our downtime, I think adults get bored just as often as kids. Maybe I don’t label my feelings as boredom, but every time I spend hours on YouTube or veg in front of the TV or scroll through Facebook out of habit — I think I might be bored.
What is boredom?
With the rise of hyper-portable technology and constant access to media, boredom has gained a comeback of interest. At first, we may think we shouldn’t ever be bored anymore — with the tap of an app we can be on to the next thing — but more and more experts are listing benefits of boredom. Most suggest that occasionally turning off devices will result in greater problem-solving skills and the creative bursts that come after stretches of nothing to do. According to those in the know, boredom isn’t something to be avoided, but embraced.
This is interesting stuff. (Ironically — or maybe appropriately — none of this online research was boring.) Before I started Googling boredom, I don’t think I could have defined it any better than “the state of being bored” or something like that. But the Time article above defined it as “a search for neural stimulation that isn’t satisfied.”
Not satisfied. That makes sense.
When we’re bored, it means our brains are looking for something to do. Something to satisfy us.
Made for more
Where do we go to find that satisfaction?
Maybe YouTube. Maybe Hulu. Maybe scrolling through Facebook or Instagram.
But we weren’t made to stare at screens for fulfillment and satisfaction. We weren’t saved to live the easy, distracted life.
Throughout the New Testament, the Christian life is compared to circumstances like a soldier getting dressed for war or laborers harvesting a field. These aren’t idle word pictures. As people made in God’s image, we were created to mirror God in His role as Creator. Work has always been a good part of God’s creation.
As saved children of God, we are called to make our lives count in service to Him. As Christians, we know that living for ourselves or our own entertainment will ultimately never really satisfy us. Only in following Jesus first will we find fulfillment — even to the point of laying down our lives in service to others as our act of worship to God.
This is probably why our brains hunger for stimulation. They weren’t made to just consume media. We were made (and saved) to do things.
Next time you’re bored
Boredom isn’t bad. Our choice lies in what we do with it. “Boredom is both a warning that we are not doing what we want to be doing and a ‘push’ that motivates us to switch goals and projects,” one researcher says.
So consider this a push. Next time you’re bored, don’t turn to a screen. Open your Bible (your real one). Challenge yourself to do something hard before you do something easy. Maybe that would be completing a task you’ve been putting off. Or memorizing a Bible verse.
Run a mile or two. Call a friend who needs encouragement. Read a couple chapters in that book you decided to finish this summer. Give yourself the “neural stimulation” that you didn’t realize you were needing.
I love a “Blue Bloods” marathon, and there’s a place for using media as entertainment. But imagine what our churches and communities would look like if we stopped turning to media to satisfy us. Picture a community where it was normal for neighbors to interact regularly and really know each other, for friends to work on projects together instead of binging on reruns, and for all of us to seek activity instead of entertainment.
And if we can think of nothing else, we can always sweep the floor.
Copyright 2019 Lauren Dunn. All rights reserved.