One of my daily reflections on work I have for you is, what if we tried to be bored? I mean, really went after it with gusto! Got our Seinfeld on and created a half-hour about nothing? What if we pursued boredom?
We see the countless articles, studies, and news stories opining on the devastating and still mostly unknown effects of smartphones and social media on the human brain. It’s ironic because we read these very articles, studies, and stories, after all, on our smartphones while we’re waiting in line at the grocery store, during our kid’s soccer practice, sitting at stoplights, ignoring our spouse at dinner, ignoring the preacher at church, waiting for our coffee meeting to arrive, laying in bed at night… you get the picture. In fact, my guess is you’re reading this article right now in a similar fashion.
One of your daily reflections on work is probably this: you hate to be bored. And thank God, technology has finally made it possible for us to never be bored again!
We can freak out about technology (and maybe rightfully so). Still, every generation has had to deal with issues that shift the culture in dramatic ways. Ours may be doing it at a record pace, but let’s not be chronological snobs and assume we’re all that special. The human race has been doing stupid things for millennia!
So how do we live with constant technology in healthier ways? I will leave the heavy lifting to the sociologists, and I’ll to leaving it as one of the daily reflections on work that I’m trying to get better at.
Trying to be bored.
I used to remember having different daily reflections on work and life back then-beautiful ideas that emerged, the way I talked to God, the way my imagination stirred, the way I daydreamed and problem solved on the back of a tithe envelope during a long Sunday night sermon (remember those?), riding my bike in circles on our cul-de-sac, or just staring out the window on a drive across town.
So, I’ve started looking for opportunities to be bored again – waiting for a meeting to start, pumping gas, standing in line at Starbucks – to actually see nothing as something. Something valuable. Something to look forward to.
Just like dieting, when I tell myself I can’t have something, I crave it. But suppose I replace an unwanted desire with a healthier one. In that case, I’m actually going after something rather than just depriving myself of something. The psychology is real with food, and it’s real with that dopamine hit my brain gets every time I pull out my smartphone, too.
So, I’m stealing little moments of boredom here and there, letting my brain sit idle, ordering nothing like it’s the best something on the menu. No, I’m not throwing out the smartphone, quitting Facebook, or deleting Words with Friends. The problem isn’t the phone in my hand, it’s the sin in my heart.
So, what do you say? Do you want to be bored with me? Let’s let our daily reflections on work involve a little boredom – together.
What the Bible Says About Work: Work is Not the Enemy
When I looked at my calendar last week, I noticed something unusual. There was nothing, literally zero little colored blocks, on the Saturday column. It was a glorious discovery, and I embraced it fully.
I slept until I naturally woke up (which, unfortunately, isn’t very late for me anymore). I spent the morning drinking coffee, reading some books, putting my feet up for a little college football in the afternoon, and then going out for dinner with the family that evening. It was a beautiful, restful, re-energizing sabbath.
The Importance of Rest
We are told to rest. What the Bible says about work is that we should take a day away from work each week, started in Genesis 2 when the Creator of the Universe modeled it for us. Not only is rest a gift from God, but it’s also a regular reminder that the world doesn’t rise and fall on our ability to get things done. We are needy people who require rest and find our strength in our dependence on Jesus.
While this gift of rest is something our American culture inherently struggles with (only enhanced by technology’s ability to keep us virtually connected to our work at all times), there seems to be an emerging counter culture movement that almost celebrates rest as the ultimate pursuit of human existence. This is perplexing to me.
“The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” –Genesis 2:15
Work is broken by sin, manic productivity has become an idol of our capitalistic culture. We can wrongly place our identity in our career, and work itself is not the enemy of our souls. In fact, what the Bible says about work is that we were created to work! Not to earn our name and God’s favor (that work was finished by Jesus), but to honor God and serve our neighbors with the work of our hands.
Pick something in this life, and you and I can make an idol of it. Even the good things. Perhaps especially the good things! We’ve all heard of countless examples of the workaholic dad that misses his kid’s basketball games or the stressed-out “mompreneur” that loses the connection to her family in pursuit of her startup dream. The truth is we can make an idol out of our families and our leisure time too!
What the Bible says about work in Mark 2:27 is that “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” We weren’t made for rest; rest is a gift from God. We were made to dream, create, cultivate, make culture and add value to the world around us in big and small ways. We were designed to work and take care of God’s creation as His vice-regents and image-bearers. That mandate is meant to be lived out in the board room and the family room.
As I wrap some good daily reflections for work, here’s my encouragement to all of us today: Be aware of your sinful ability to turn work into a self-salvation project, but don’t make work the enemy.
Who Are You?
Have you succumbed to our Western culture’s margin-less worship of work instead of what the Bible says about work? Is it where you find you find your identity and seek to make a name for yourself? Do you struggle to turn off you work and focus on your family, friends, and mental health? Then repent and embrace rest as the gift of God that it is. The world can get along fine without each of us for a few hours each week, and that’s good to remember.
Have you made work into the enemy? Stop it! You were created to work! Whether you’re closing a multimillion-dollar deal, folding laundry, performing brain surgery, assembling IKEA furniture, serving others, and adding value to the world around you – it’s all part of what the Bible says about work and the human vocation.
Rest is a gift, but you were made to work.