With my men’s group, we have been working our way through Rich Villodas’ book, The Deeply Formed Life. In his book, Villodas explores five areas in which Christians in America especially need the transformative work of King Jesus in our lives as well as spiritual disciplines that help us grow in these areas. Time prevents me from doing a complete review of this powerful book; however, I do want to focus in on a section in the second chapter.
When discussing the practices and disciplines for developing contemplative rhythms, Villodas encourages us to “normalize boredom.” He writes:
Silent prayer is often uneventful; it’s what I refer to as normalized boredom. In a society driven by sensory stimulation, distraction, and activity, silent prayer is an alien practice; it’s not from this world.Rich Villodas, The Deeply Formed Life, pg. 25.
We are a people birthed into and raised by a consumer culture. Consumerism is the air we breathe. Consumerism stirs within us discontentment in order to drive us to consume goods and services. We are never allowed to be content with what is, because content people don’t spend their hard earned money on useless junk. So marketing geniuses spend time figuring out how to trigger our discontentment.
The same goes with boredom. In a consumer culture, boredom is an enemy, a source of discontentment to be driven out through constant stimulation. Feeling bored? Fight that feeling with an endless supply of shows, movies, music, games, books, magazines, you name it! And it all comes with a price, of course.
Now when we buy into this lie that boredom is an enemy and bring it into our spiritual lives, what happens? We come to spiritual things with an expectation of entertainment and stimulation. When we worship God, we want mountaintop experiences and burning bushes. If this church service or this preacher isn’t exciting or stimulating enough, I will go to the next one and the next one. Service? Prayer? Bible study? Boo-ring! Give us social media drama. We know it is unhealthy for us, but at least it’s entertaining.
As disciples of King Jesus, we must resist the lies of our consumer culture. Boredom is not the enemy. Instead it can be healthy.
Think of boredom during silent prayer as an act of purification. In this uneventful moment, God purifies us of the false god of good feelings. While good feelings are gifts, they can easily become ends in themselves. We can move from worshipping the living God to worshipping our spiritual experiences. This is a fine lie we must be mindful of. The ever-urgent need for people growing in relationship with God is the willingness to endure moments that are far from inspirational.Rich Villodas, The Deeply Formed Life, pg. 25.
Maybe think of it like this. In the early stages of a dating relationship, everything is exciting. There are butterflies and adrenaline and romance. Those are all wonderful feelings, but feelings by themselves do not make a mature and lasting relationship. A healthy marriage is built not just on feelings and romance, but it is also built in the boring moments of life–trips to the grocery store, household chores, caring for each other or the kids when sick.
It is in the boredom of the every day that healthy marriages are formed. In the same way, it is in the boredom of the every day that we mature into the image and likeness of King Jesus.