The Sinful Tragedy of Boredom
“Dad, I’m bored.”
How many times have I heard one of my girls say that? And how many times has that statement been a cause for my patience and self-control to be tested?
Why do such cries test my patience? Because I know what my children are saying to me beneath the words, “I’m bored.” Firstly, they’re telling me they’re not satisfied with what I’ve given them. They want more, whether that’s more stuff or more stimulation. Secondly, they’re inadvertently telling me that they’re blind to what I’ve already given them, and what’s at their disposal. They have enough toys, books, dress-ups, etc., and they have that secret ingredient…imagination. Yet, they fail to see what’s there before them, and they cry bored.
A Problem We Don’t Grow Out Of
If you’re a parent, then you probably nodded in agreement to much of what I wrote above. You’ve heard the cries of boredom, you’ve experienced the frustration. But do you hear the same cry in your heart?
The desire to cry out “bored!” is not only for children. It’s also a far more serious issue than being between a child and a parent. Boredom effects adults too, and it occurs between Christians and their Father in Heaven.
The Parable of the Bored Life
This afternoon I began reading Welcome to the Story by Stephen Nichols. In his section on creation he shares the following parable:
“Most of the time, Timothy was bored. As a kid he seemed to care little for the things around him and even less for the people around him. Timothy’s mom would send him out to play and he would be bored. He didn’t explore. He didn’t imagine. He didn’t even look up at the birds and the clouds or down at the caterpillars and spiders (he is a boy). At school, his mind thought about play. At play, he could only think of everything he didn’t have to play with, only thinking of all the toys he didn’t have. Eventually Timothy became an adult and carried his boredom with him. At his job, he could only think of play and fun. When he wasn’t working and out trying to have fun, he could only think of everything he didn’t have. On his way home from work he didn’t look at the clouds in the sky. He missed sunrises, and he shrugged at sunsets. Timothy yawned through his childhood, school, work, family, and friends. Timothy yawned through life and right on into death. Let the reader understand the meaning of the parable. Timothy had no sense of wonder whatsoever. Timothy squandered a precious gift from God, the gift of life, by caring little for God’s gift of creation. Timothy and his boredom is not just a parable, however. And, sadly, Timothy’s not alone.”
What a tragic life Timothy lived. What a tragic life many of us live.
Nichols will go on to describe our culture as one “adrift in a ship of boredom.” While the sad irony is we’re actually in a ship “floating in a sea of wonder.”
It’s Not Only Tragic, But It’s Sinful
The bored life is not only a tragic life, it’s a sinful one too.
To be bored is to fail to see the many and varied good gifts God has given us, not the least of which is in creation.
Nichols explains that boredom “begets a loss of a sense of wonder. Our loss of a sense of wonder begets a loss of appreciation. And our loss of appreciation begets a loss of gratitude.”
And to whom are we to live in constant gratitude? God.
To be bored is to fail to see the many and varied good gifts God has given us, not the least of which is in creation. I mentioned this earlier this year when I asked Are You Grateful?
What’s the Christian’s Antidote to Boredom?
Nichols suggests the antidote to boredom:
“Embracing the doctrine of creation is the antidote to boredom. When we realize that God made us, that God made everything, life is set in a whole new light. How can we yawn at what God made? When we acknowledge God as Creator of all things, we regain our sense of wonder, we regain our sense of appreciation, and we regain our sense of gratitude. We say thank you. We stop yawning through life.”
Although I shouldn’t say it in frustration, there’s a sense in which my retort to my children, “Stop being bored. Go play outside!” is correct. It might be correct, but it’s incomplete. The answer isn’t found in simply being outside (and consequently unable to pester parents), the answer is in being outside and seeing it as the handiwork of an awesome Creator.
My challenge to you today is this: take the time to consider this world and regain some of the wonder of creation. Oh, you may have to look away from your computer screen and look out a window.