Embracing Boredom in a Lonely Season

“Today I observe my children when they think nothing is happening: bored to tears, imprisoned in themselves, almost desperate. Like my mother [did when I was young] I feel it would be best if they could experience that more often.” Erling Kagge, Silence in the Age of Noise.

I’ve often heard that people fear public speaking more than they fear death. That those are our two biggest fears. But there’s something else we work very hard to avoid. Boredom.

Because we work so hard to avoid it, it may be that boredom is our most unacknowledged, perhaps our biggest, fear.

Covid 19 is blocking our social outlets leaving technology to feed our efforts to engage our minds.

But there is another option: we can tempt boredom and embrace silence with time to just think. We can find company with our inner selves. We can see whether silence will lead us beyond itself to a new, better place.

In his book, Kagge quotes Norwegian author Jon Fosse: “[S]ilence goes together with wonder, but it also has a kind of majesty to it . . . . And whoever does not stand in wonder at this majesty fears it.”

This fear, Kagge says, “causes me to all too easily avoid being present in my own life. Instead, I busy myself with this or that, avoiding the silence, living through the new task at hand.”

Kagge’s perspective is largely secular. Robert Cardinal Sarah‘s is not: “Sounds and emotions detach us from ourselves, whereas silence always forces man to reflect upon his own life.”

And consider this from G.K. Chesterton: “Every man has forgotten who he is. One may understand the cosmos, but never the ego; the self is more distant than any star.”

It’s interesting that Chesterton doesn’t stop at saying we have forgotten who we are. He goes on to say, “We have all forgotten what we really are” (emphasis mine).

That’s a more universal distinction. It’s one true thing to say we don’t know ourselves well enough. It’s another true thing to say we have little understanding of what God made us to be. We can’t have the second without the first. We’ve missed much of what we are–what He intends for us.

This time of social isolation offers us time to pursue the company of God who knows who we truly are (and loves us anyway) and knows what we truly are (His with a purpose).

Dwight Longenecker offers this: “Perhaps in lockdown mode we can all take more time to listen attentively not to another podcast, audio book, or whatever is streaming on our screen gadgets, but learn to listen to the voice of the Lord. Just as God moves slowly, so he speaks quietly. The prophet hears the Lord not in the earthquake, wind, and fire but in the still, small voice of calm.”

These are lessons I’m not done working through. With the coronavirus shutdown, I found the abrupt end to my well-established routine–my everyday program of distractions–to be very unsettling. And I miss the necessary and valid fellowship of others. God did not make us for solitude.

Yet our everyday (pre-coronavirus) lives had an imbalance leaving necessary solitude abandoned and stuck at the top of the teeter-totter of life as we weighed ourselves down with much that did not matter. Now is a good time to learn how to balance the need for interaction that we’re missing with the need for silent solitude that we may have ignored for too long.

Silence feeds our souls. Silence tells us who we are–for better or for worse. (Yet how else might we improve ourselves?)

And silence lets us hear God’s still small voice telling us what we are–what He made us to do.

There are fewer than two weeks until Easter. And this Easter may be very much unlike any other we’ve ever known. Many of us feel like we’re standing still as we move through this Lenten season. And even those of us who do not mark a liturgical calendar are finding ourselves in a state of sacrifice, of having given up much, albeit not willingly.

Every great social challenge is a time of decision. Will we merely endure this time, or use it to seek our better selves and pursue God’s intended purpose for us?

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24 Replies to “Embracing Boredom in a Lonely Season”

  1. So much wisdom in this post, Nancy. Thank you. I love:
    “This time of social isolation offers us time to pursue the company of God who knows who we truly are (and loves us anyway) and knows what we truly are (His with a purpose).”

    It is our relationship He pursues…and has from the beginning. I do think this time of isolation will be the making of a stronger heart and a stronger church body.

  2. I am one of those who used to fear boredom and do all I could to fill the silence with noise, distraction, etc. But now I crave the quiet and the stillness, for there I can focus on my Lord fully. Thank you for this!

    1. It’s very interesting to watch how this situation is playing out. A local convenience store finds that sales of gas are done. Sales of alcohol and tobacco are up. And yeast is missing from some store shelves. Are people making bread because they have time and leisure to enjoy an artisan craft–or out of panic? Who will we be after this?

      I hope Christians will be the shining light to point to Christ now and then. Thanks and God bless!

  3. You’ve shared important wisdom, Nancy. Thank you. I think many of us avoid reflection and introspection because it is fearful to delve into that scary arena. We’re afraid of what we might find. I confess to seldom ever being bored. I probably have the opposite problem–being way too busy. But, the results can be the same in either case if I’m still avoiding the self-reflection. Thank you for sharing your insights and the nudge to seek our Lord during our quiet time.

    1. Thank you, Katherine. I wonder whether we aren’t busy in order to avoid self-reflection. I love the activities that keep me busy. But finding the balance isn’t always easy. God bless!

  4. Such a powerful and convicting question, Nancy!
    “Will we merely endure this time, or use it to seek our better selves and pursue God’s intended purpose for us?”

  5. I really enjoyed this, Nancy! I fear this social distancing will create even more attachments and addictions to our phones and laptops. I myself am trying to get back in the habit of reading actual books more and doing something besides picking up my phone when I’m bored. I’ll be sharing this on Facebook now! 🙂

  6. I had not thought about embracing this time of solitude. It is a great way to reconnect deeply with God. Thanks

  7. The reason is not good, but the methods we employ can teach us to appreciate what we have. We are so accustomed to going where we want when we want we can take for granted that the store will be there with supplies when we need them. We can learn to be thankful during this time of solitude while we take inventory of our blessings.

    1. Amen, Barbara. I keep thinking of the way my mother talked about the Great Depression and what it was like then. We may be embarking on such a time economically. We are spoiled indeed. Thanks for commenting. God bless!

  8. Silence leaves us alone with our thoughts. And with God. It opens the door for us to face ourselves, our unresolved issues, our questions and doubts. So typically we tend to avoid silence. Yet, as you write, if we can embrace silence it can be transformational. We can face things we have tried to avoid, process grief we have never dealt with, learn new things, deepen our relationship with God. As you mention, it will be how we enter into and use the silence we have been offered.

    1. Oh, Anne, may we do all the things you mention. May we work through the stuff that’s weighing on us. Thank you and God bless!

  9. I love this “Find the Positive” post Ms. Nancy. Still busy with things, but I am finding a bit more time to spend in contemplation. I’m enjoying the opportunity to get caught up on some of my deeper thinking. It’s that time where I learn the most new lessons. God plows deep sometimes. Thank you so much for this post ma’am.

  10. I hope the solitude helps people turn to God in unprecedented rates during this time, and stay with Him after life returns to what we consider normal. Love the wisdom and truth you share about silence. As my mama used to say, “Silence is golden.”

  11. I missed this when you posted it, so I apologize for the late response. It was a good post, but I wonder if it applies to everyone equally.

    Quiet time is seldom good for me, and in this season the quiet has been suffocating. I have been working on the road long before the lockdown. My routine involves the confines of a motel room or my travel trailer more often than not. I have always manage pretty well, because I never felt trapped in it. I could always go out to dinner or a gun range or something. Being alone in a box with almost no company, and with nothing to occupy my mind is starting to take a toll. When I am home, I can find plenty to do, but this is different. This is a prison without bars.

    1. I’ve actually been pondering that thought as I prepared my post for today–also a positive discussion. When I feel pinched in this situation as I sometimes do, it’s because I miss eating out and doing things whether alone or with others. I’m sorry to hear the gun range is off-limits. That sounds like a great tension reliever that you could do with social distancing. God bless, Doug, and thanks for the reminder that it isn’t all good for everyone.

    2. You’re right, Doug. Many are struggling through this time as you are. I find that alone time is good for me–if I don’t have to big a dose of it all at once. It sounds like your dosages are quite long. I pray God blesses you with encouragement from Him.

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