By Steven Norris
“I’m bored.” We’re only days into summer vacation and I can’t help but wonder how many parents have already heard that phrase uttered a few times. I wonder how many children have already sulked around the house with long faces and mellow-dramatic sighs to make sure that everyone understood their terrible plight.
What do we do when a spat of boredom sets in upon a household? My hunch is that many parents will rush to find some way to entertain their kids — playing a game, planning a day trip, or turning on a movie or a video game.
I would like to suggest, however, that a little bit of boredom might be a great thing in our lives this summer. Before coming to Griffin to pastor, I taught at a Classical Christian school in the mountains of North Carolina.
One of the leading voices in Classical Christian education commented that “Modern education is an education in anxiety.” It seems that education mirrors the world’s broader attempt to cram as much as possible into our days. Students move through days frenzied and frenetic — rushing to classes, sports practices, music lessons, extra-curricular clubs and activities, and (if there is time) church.
Cram homework, tests, and projects into that and cap it off with a numerical evaluation that, if we aren’t careful, dictates a student’s worth. Students are essentially given a ticket on the pass-cram-forget carousel — forever moving, but never really getting anywhere.
Dr. Chris Perrin writes, “The Greek word for leisure is schole (skoh-LAY).” It doesn’t mean leisure as in taking a vacation and laying around on the beach all day. Instead, it is about giving the brain a chance to process information, to make connections it wouldn’t otherwise make, to creatively “play” with knowledge in new and surprising ways.
In the scriptures, we see examples of this important rhythm of work and rest — of encountering God outside the regular day-to-day pattern of busy-ness. At the end of six days of creation, God rests. God establishes this as a pattern to be followed by the Hebrews for generations — a time to set aside the schedule, be present, and worship the Lord with attentive playfulness.
Google’s well-known 80-20 policy models this kind of thinking. Employees are encouraged to spend 80% of their time on core projects and about 20% of their time pursuing personal passions and innovation. They are encouraged to spend time collaborating with other teams and dreaming of how to make the world a better place, whether these ideas turn into profitable ventures or not. In other words, they have made schole a part of their business model and culture.
This summer might just be the best opportunity to engage in schole as a family — a little “holy boredom.” May you fight the urge to fill your days with frenetic busy-ness and futile attempts to make up for a year of reduced travel and activity. Similarly, may you fight the urge to mindlessly veg out with mindless distractions. Instead, may you pause with intention — carefully and mindfully pursuing what is most important to you, connecting to those closest to you, and worshipping the God who makes it all possible.