May 26, 2015

The Burden of a Boring Life

By Deaconess Mary J. Moerbe

Everyone goes through spells of being tired. I don’t just mean when it is getting late, and I don’t mean tired for a day or two. We get worn down on an ongoing basis. Are these bouts of weariness inherent to the lives we cobble together?

God didn’t form us from the dust of the earth—or the rib of Adam—in order to handle all the ramifications of sin. He made us to live in a perfect world, where we could love and care for what is around us. So sometimes we get overwhelmed by the rebellion and sin around us and that is to be expected. The truth is we cannot bear up under the sins of the world, and there are all too many weaknesses and rebellions within us too.

In addition to intense challenges beyond our control, day-to-day life can result in something of a mundane weariness. We all know that God has placed us into different relationships and functions: we may be children, siblings, friends, citizens, etc., and we may be making, fixing, learning, teaching, exploring, maintaining, etc. All together it is a lot!

Different things exercise the various parts of us, and overall it is certainly a workout. What strikes me, however, is the flipside: while parts of me work, other parts may get to rest.

I may hover, cover, and aim not to smother as a mother, but I largely rest as an adult daughter. Employees may serve their employer, but they’re still served at stores and restaurants; they can still put their feet up at home. This seemingly second-tier ability to receive is built into all the vocations and stations God has given us in this world. Admittedly you can see it best when everyone willingly serves the neighbor God has given them.

Even so, it seems to me I’m tired anyway, and I think I’ve figured out why. I’ve been so caught up in everything, even finding time for naps and Netflix, that I’ve forgotten how to find things interesting. Our Lord created an incredibly intricate assortment of things before us every moment, but ears—even mine—forget to hear and eyes forget to see even in a worldly sense.

My wise father used to say to us as children, “There are no boring things, only boring people.” The onus is on us to find the interest: the interest is already there, embedded by an infinitely mind-boggling Creator.

Finding things interesting is much different from doing what I like. I largely know what I like. I’m largely content with what I like. My kiddos, though, teach me a lesson about this nearly every day. Flush with so much I wanted as a child, they still claim to be bored! They know what they like—and it is piddly and passing at times—but are uninterested in practically everything else.

How can I cultivate my children’s desire to look for what is interesting, valuable, and beautiful all around them? And how can I cultivate my own ability to be interested in matters great and small, simple or complex, diverse or mundane?

There is a wealth of God-made stuff all around me and, really, the best I can think of sometimes is Netflix? Don’t get me wrong. By all means, we can watch until the very end of the credits to give those men, women, and stunt animals their moment and our appreciation, but let’s also consider asking ourselves how we have  gotten so boring.

These days even sex and violence are boring. Drinking is boring. Gluttony is ho-hum. Over-stimulation and over-indulgence are ultimately boring! Hence we fend off growing “tolerance.” Yes, even Facebook feuds and fights lose their appeal of drama and self-righteousness. All the vices we turn to are letting us down, and rightly so.

Sin only pretends to be interesting. Addiction isn’t interesting. Actual death is not interesting. Piecemealing our perception with lies and varying degrees of deception is actually totally lame, even if it is popular and the hobby of us all. So how I can find things interesting? That is, how can I even start to delve into the richness God has placed into each and every thing and soul on this earth?

Taste the wine and bread of communion. Feel water in remembrance of your baptism. Not because tasting and feeling are such great things—though, really, they are pretty impressive—but to remember God grants us little things as well as large. God provides for us in mysterious ways, yes, but distinctly earthly ways. His provisions come to us in ways we can receive them, even with our busy schedules and distracted bodies.

I wonder if we regularly gloss over areas of God-given rest simply because our corresponding responsibilities within those vocations are less demanding. We have a command to have dominion over all the earth. Now, we may not be positioned to do very much about that on a grand scale, but don’t we benefit from it every moment of every day? Each breath is a gift we take from a world in our care as the earth continues to offer us from its God-given bounty.

Isn’t that interesting? And isn’t it telling that we can overlook, quite literally, the world in our daily lives? We can see ourselves with our deeds and needs with such tunnel vision we hardly see the path under our feet.

Interests aren’t inherently Christian, of course, and personal pleasures certainly aren’t guaranteed piety. Yet I bet a whole book could be written about the effect of interest and leisure on ancient thought, and about interest as a tool and resource to explore God’s gifts in creation.

As Christians, wouldn’t finding interest in what is before us inspire gratitude and delight and affirm that we can rest in God’s provision? Wouldn’t it likely expand our own creativity and sensitivity to our neighbors? Wouldn’t it help equip us for service to our neighbors? Could interest be a vocational form of praise for our Maker, Redeemer, and Sanctifier?

Let me be perfectly clear: personal interests and quality calls are as limited as we are. We have no excuse to neglect our responsibilities in the pursuit of play and pleasure. Still, perhaps there can be a discipline to finding interest: it could be a matter of training the mind toward attentive thanksgiving.

Finding things interesting would presumably lessen our struggles against the mundane. Work could become almost playful, as we explore and learn. We could engage more fully, yet in a more healthy, relaxing way, so that maybe our lives could testify that life is a good gift of God and not an inherent burden.

Wouldn’t it be great to get a bit of rest that wouldn’t cost us extra time? Wouldn’t it be great to broaden our perspectives and at the same time lighten our loads? May we rest in God’s gifts, great and small, mercifully granted to us for the sake of Jesus.


Mary J. Moerbe is an LCMS deaconess and writer who enjoys preparing resources for the church. Her books include Family Vocation: God’s Calling in Marriage, Parenting, and Childhood (Crossway), How Can I Help: God’s Calling for Kids (CPH), and Whisper, Whisper: Learning about Church (CPH). Her next adult project is on blessings!

Image: "The Princess Who Wouldn't Smile" by Viktor Vasnetsov

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