Boredom can lead to wonderful discoveries

Published 2:02 pm Wednesday, May 29, 2024

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In my church, we have Seasons of the Church Year, which means most Sundays have a specific theme or intention for the specific season. So, the four Sundays leading up to Christmas are the Season of Advent, when we wait with anticipation for the joys of Christmas. The period before Easter is the Season of Lent, when each Sunday is marked by an attitude of repentance. We have now entered into the Season after Pentecost, which this year extends until November 24th.

That’s a long time, and, since I like to be honest with you, I must admit that it can get kind of boring. There isn’t much flash associated with this season. There aren’t spectacular feasts like Christmas or Easter. The Sundays of this season don’t have much of a theme other than being normal, ordinary Sundays at church. And that, my friends, is why I say the Season after Pentecost is marked by a boredom that makes it easy to check out and return when things get more interesting.

We don’t talk much about how our religious patterns and practices can sometimes be dreadfully boring. Perhaps we are afraid of being sacrilegious if we ever dare to tell the truth about how boring it can be to hear 30 verses of Scripture that seem to have very little to do with being human in the 21st century. You don’t even have to be religious to admit how appealing it is to avoid boredom and boring things. We are an overstimulated people, saturated by entertainment, content, and a general busy-ness that keeps our minds from ever being able to slow down and be bored.

Here’s the secret, though. Being bored isn’t the terrible fate we’ve made it out to be. The late author David Foster Wallace said, “It turns out that bliss – a second-by-second joy and gratitude at the gift of being alive, conscious – lies on the other side of crushing, crushing boredom.” As a writer, he understood that allowing himself to be bored and less occupied mentally eventually gave way to a creative joy that he couldn’t access any other way.

Boredom: the secret to writing the great American novel! Boredom: the secret to fostering dreams in a world full of nightmares. Boredom: a key that unlocks a deeper level to life! Let’s get back to the boredom of religion. Perhaps embracing the boredom of normal, everyday religious life would allow you to see the beauty that you have discounted because it doesn’t come to you with flash and excitement. It’s all well and good to meet God with songs of praise and the loudest organ you’ve ever heard. It’s a different thing entirely to embrace the boredom of your religion as an invitation to go deeper, to find the buried treasures overlooked by a need to be stimulated and satisfied.

It’s the same with non-religious life. When is the last time you let yourself stop and allowed your mind an opportunity to wonder and explore? When was the last time you let your boredom become a launching pad for a new interest or new hobby you would never have embraced before? Being bored spurns creativity. It gives birth to new ideas, new insights, and new experiences. So, embrace the boredom of your religious practice and your everyday life. Let your brain rest from all the stimulation and see how rich your daydreams can become!

Chris Adams is the Rector at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Washington.