Our children have said it, as have yours: “I am bored.” They have said it in the middle of The Nutcracker or in the middle of my sermons. People have creative ways to describe boredom. They say things like: “That was so boring, it was like watching paint dry.” Or “It was so boring it was like staring at pond water.”
Some folk who sit in church week after week could write a book on boredom. Settling into a cozy, cushioned pew, even the eyelids of the greatest saint may droop. A stuffy sermon from a stuffy preacher in a stuffy sanctuary is sure to arouse no one. As someone said, “A sleepy preacher will hardly awaken drowsy sinners.” My church members surely know about boredom, having a big dose of it every time I say, “I want to begin my sermon with….” At that point they begin to fantasize about the noon hour and lunch with the Methodists.
A study of high school students in Germany reveals several categories of boredom (none of which have to do with faithful disciples taking in a sermon). There is now a new category of boredom based on this study, Apathetic Boredom. This type of boredom, says the study, can be dangerous. For instance, those with Apathetic Boredom are more likely to smoke, drink, or use drugs. (Did it really take a study to figure that out?)
Some folk lose their zest for living. They find themselves at a place where they don’t seem to really care about life. They search for some passion, some love, some good feeling, but it is hard to come by. There is a Greek word to describe this condition, acedia, “not caring.”
Grief can bring on acedia. Since Sheri’s death three years ago, I’ve had a dose or two of it.
The animal most usually associated with this condition is the sloth, which moves so slowly through trees, you would think it is lazy or just plain doesn’t care. Others think of a brown bear, hibernating for the winter. Those who have lost their zest for life would just as soon sleep their lives away. The color of boredom is gray—despondent, indifferent, you know, the wintry overcast skies that we see in January.
Laziness can be a symptom of boredom. Some folk are too lazy to parent; it takes hard work every day. Or too lazy to love; love is an action word. Others are intellectually lazy, afraid to ask the tough questions or spiritually lazy, not willing to discipline themselves.
It has been said that there were two sins in the Garden of Eden: Pride and sloth. Pride wants to take on God’s role; sloth runs from human responsibility. Pride thinks too highly of itself; sloth thinks too lowly of itself.
Life marches on after the holidays or after a death. Some of you struggle with Apathetic Boredom, sloth, and depression. My prayer is that 2020 will be one filled with hope and zest for life for all of you and for myself as well. There are many wonderful counselors and Christian friends who would like to help. Reach out to them.
And if you get really bored, come to my house and we’ll watch some paint dry.