Tish Harrison Warren’s book Liturgy of the Ordinary recounts a shocking study from The University of Virginia on boredom. In this study, participants sat alone in a room without technology or additional distractions, with the exception of a button that claimed it would shock them if pushed. The study showed that 2/3 of male participants and ¼ of female participants willingly decided to shock themselves rather than sit in silence during the fifteen-minute study.
I was appalled at the stupidity of the participants upon hearing about the study a few years ago; now, well over a month into quarantine, I’m starting to get it. I, like so many of you, have recently become well acquainted with the feeling of boredom.
Our days have begun to look more mundane. We’re confined to our homes. We are yearning for connection in what feels like “lesser ways,” such as Zoom and phone calls, while busying ourselves with what feels like “lesser tasks,” such as doing the laundry or making a meal for our family. We are bored over the ordinary of our daily lives, and if we are being honest with ourselves, we are also discontent.
But then I am reminded of Ecclesiastes 2:24-26, which says: “There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for apart from Him who can eat or who can have enjoyment? For to the one who pleases Him God has given wisdom and knowledge and joy, but to the sinner He has given the business of gathering and collecting, only to give to one who pleases God. This also is vanity and a striving after wind.”
I receive from that passage that my mission as a follower of God has not changed, even if my “toils” have. Through diligence in a strange work-from-home schedule, through the way I treat my family and neighbors, and yes, even through menial tasks such as the laundry, I can find joy in God when I recognize Him as the Giver of the gifts in my life. In other words, my mission to “glorify God and enjoy Him forever” remains constant, regardless of the season of life. As 1 Timothy 6:6 says, “Godliness with contentment is great gain.”
It is in these moments of boredom and discontent we can take comfort in looking to the life of Jesus. Jesus chose a life of humility during His 33 earthly years by having an ordinary job, in an ordinary town, while being surrounded by ordinary people. Friends, there is nothing wrong with God calling you to the ordinary. Take heart in remembering that God is teaching you, refining you, and making you more into His image through your faithfulness in these small, ordinary moments.