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Sitting in an airport; the plane is delayed for 3 long hours because of a thick fog. Stuck. Going nowhere, along with thousands of other slightly annoyed travellers. A time to be frustrated, or a time to pause?
Wait. Stop. Be still.
Not easy to do in our productive, high achieving culture. Doing nothing is not a good use of our time. It’s a waste and it should be avoided. I will never recover these precious lost hours.
We have planners and courses and apps that help us keep up the pace, to squeeze the most out of every moment of time so we can be more productive and achieve more, earn more and accumulate more. More is good. A faster pace is what we should always be aiming for.
Slow is not.
I have a friend who published her first book a couple of years ago. It is fun and insightful, a great read. She has a lovely conversational writing style that makes you feel like you’re having coffee with your best friend as you read. I was with her and someone asked when she was going to write her next book (we all know she has many more in her.) She answered, “I’m too busy. I only get creative when I’m bored.”
It wasn’t lack of time or lack of will. It was the mental clutter and pace of productivity that keeps her from writing. She is smart and capable and a high achiever and she is too busy to be bored.
We live our lives overscheduled, and over distracted.
During work hours, I work hard. I schedule meetings back to back, have organized to do lists and systems in place to be as productive as I can be. Apart from the occasional long-winded meeting, boredom is not something that happens at work.
When I am home I have responsibilities that take up my time. The pace has changed since my children have grown and the majority of my time is not taken up with parenting and home management, but there is still plenty to do.
Then, in my downtime when I’m not working, I distract myself with Netflix, I read books and listen to podcasts. I plan and write and create branded Instagram content. I read blogs about blogging and watch videos about Pinterest strategies. I fill up my discretionary time easily. I don’t have time to be bored. Boredom is for lazy people. Right?
It’s all good stuff, and I do believe wholeheartedly in being productive and achieving great things. I love my life full of opportunities, learning and giving.
But when there is no time to completely stop and be bored, our lives are poorer for it. Like a garden that has grown several crops without fresh fertilizer, the fruit gets smaller, new growth slows down, and the plant gets weak and prone to disease.
Pause for a moment. Stop and listen.
Psalm 46 is a beautiful song expressing God’s power and provision. It’s a Psalm that builds faith and courage. And, after each stanza is a pause, an interlude, Selah. A word that means, “Just stop for a moment and ponder this; take it all in.”
I need to schedule in Selah, pause time. Time to just think about things, time to get bored and think creatively.
I read a book a couple of years ago that had a big impact on me. Pico Iyer’s “The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere”. The book talks about giving your mind time to just think and process all of the activity, the conversations, the feelings, the pain. Processing time. Like the little spinning ball that freezes your computer while it’s working hard behind the scenes, processing. It’s super frustrating, we don’t want to wait, but sometimes our brains need a little spinning ball to stop and process things too.
I’m going to do what I’ve never done before. I’ve only read about it in books and heard other people talk about it. I’m taking a two-day personal retreat.I’ve booked a hotel not far from home by the beach to be bored. The TV will be off, the email notifications will be off. I will have my Bible and journal, a beach to walk on, and the precious gift of uninterrupted, solitary, time.
I have two goals. Firstly, to rest. I know I am emotionally and spiritually tired and I need some recreation time. I am an introvert who refreshes with quiet solitary, so jumping off the treadmill for a couple of days should do the trick and fill up my energy tank.
Secondly, I am ready to listen. To find a clear voice of wisdom as the clutter dissipates. To quiet my own thoughts, sit quietly in God’s presence, and listen. It’s amazing what problems I can solve when I just take the time to think about it. When I allow time for my brain to sort through the chaos, I can distinguish the voice of the Spirit, and find clarity and peace.
How about you? When was the last time you were bored with nothing to do apart from think? When was the last time you sat quietly without turning on the distractions to just let your mind wander? Can I encourage you to take a moment, an hour, a weekend, and get busy being bored? Waste some quality time.