The Grace of Boredom

I know I’m doing something right as a mama when I hear these three golden words, “Mom, I’m booooooored.” Or in Malachi’s case it’s more like a head bang to my knee and a pouty lip.

There are also times in the day when my kids are asked to play and entertain themselves while I do the things that mama’s need to do: cooking, cleaning, running the household. You know, my job as a stay-at-home mom and wife. And while we’re talking about jobs, my kids have one too: it’s to play. To discover. To have their curiosity piqued and explore. And, dare I say it, to get bored. And learn how to push past it.

In fact, I intentionally build times for boredom into our day. One of the biggest is rest time. My kids have been fighting it since day one. I can remember many a conversation with young Olivia going something like this, “It’s rest time for the next hour and a half, and you can choose how you’re going to spend that time: crying, playing, or sleeping. It’s up to you, I can’t really make the choice for you.”

And you should hear the amazing stories Olivia has made up over her years spent in rest time with just a few teddy bears and her blanket.

I want my kids to have a depth of ability to entertain themselves, and not expect to always be entertained. I want to foster their creativity and their ability to take limited resources and turn them into magic. I want to encourage space and time alone, even in silence, to process and rest, mind and body.

Because I know what’s coming.

My kids will one day grow up and be adults. They will have jobs and families of their own. Life will be full to brimming and their will be no such thing as true “leisure” time (moms and dads- we’re on the job 24/7!). I was commenting to Mike the other day, I couldn’t even be bored if I WANTED to be bored. There is always something to do.

But there is such a thing as adult boredom. It’s that feeling of being stuck. Of working hard on something and not seeming to be able to make any headway. That constant urge to just quit. Give up. Hit the roadblock and call it a day.

Adults- we self-medicate our boredom on social media. Texting to cover up our loneliness. Music and conversation to drown the silence. How about busy-work and never-ending to-do lists to keep ourselves feeling important rather than empty.

These are often distractions. Keeping us from doing the real work. The real work of facing ourselves. Who we are meant to be. The real work of facing our emotions, our failures, our disappointments, and not just doing the work but working it out. Working it out into the open rather than silencing it into the past.

Do I give myself space in my day to just be? To be still and silent and allow my thoughts and feelings the full weight of their force? When I hit a roadblock, when something doesn’t come naturally or easy to me, do I throw in the towel? Do I like to whine that I’m booooooored, and this is haaaaaaaaard, and I don’t want to do it anymore?

Or can I learn to be comfortable in that uncomfortable tension between starting out and having arrived?

Because a lot of life is spent in that place. And I don’t want to just numb it away when I know some of my best achievements and breakthroughs are just on the other side. If I can just press through. Get creative with the resources at hand. Spend some time facing and dealing with my bored self.

I can probably take a lesson or two from my kiddos about the art of boredom. It takes a special grace to be able to face a circumstance we wouldn’t choose for ourselves, and make the most of it. I can choose how I spend the time given me, either crying and fighting it, or being marked by my perseverance and faithfulness to growth and change.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2

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