I was standing around at (yet another) kid’s birthday party in our local park chatting with a group of mums I didn’t know very well. One of them turned and asked me what I did for work. At the time I did no paid work and was at home with my young kids. When I let her know this she responded: ‘Oh, I could never stay home with my kids. I’d find it too intellectually unstimulating’.
It’s a conversation I had multiple variations of in that season. Sometimes it was the disdainful assumption that I choose not to work because of a deficient intellectual capacity. Other times I heard various iterations of people wondering how I didn’t go mad from the boredom, or what on earth I found to do all day. I always found it hard to know how to respond. I felt the implicit judgement in the comments. And while I would argue that being chiefly at home doesn’t have to be only boring and intellectually unstimulating, the fact of the matter was that sometimes I did find it like that. It’s just that those were not the primary motivating factors in my choice to stay home.
Boring isn’t bad
Somehow, I think Christians can sometimes buy into the world’s view that the very worst thing you can be is bored. Our culture strongly values being constantly entertained. Much of life for all of history has had boring bits, but today we seem to try to eliminate them as much as possible. Machines have been invented that do the bulk of our menial tasks and have brought great advances in quality of life in many respects. But there is also a sense in which we have come to resent and even despise things that take time and are repetitive and mundane.
Our constant desire to be entertained means we try and eliminate any boring moments in our days. The rise of the smartphone has only exacerbated this tendency. As we stand in a queue or sit in a waiting room or ride on a train, we no longer let our mind drift. We swipe and scroll and listen with our noise-cancelling headphones firmly in place. A friend told me about her highly successful husband, who fills his commute time with self-improvement podcasts. But he is so eager to use his valuable time well that he listens to them all at double speed! No wonder that people then look with some derision at those who fill their days with the seemingly unstimulating work of caring for children and the home.
However, to be constantly entertained is not a biblical ideal to strive for. We Christians are those who have been made alive by the gift of the saving grace of God. He has remade us in Christ Jesus as his redeemed people to do the good works he has prepared for us (Ephesians 2:4–10). And sometimes doing good is boring! Boring is not the same thing as bad. There are many aspects of life where this might apply, but let’s particularly consider looking after small children.
Doing good can be wearying
There is not much I have found as wearying as the work of caring for our children when they were under school age. We had our first four children in four years, and much of my life in that season feels like a blur. There were sleepless nights and long days. Noses that always ran, nappies that constantly needed changing, and so, so many loads of washing to be done. There were nutritious meals to be lovingly planned and prepared, then the long appeals to actually eat them, followed by the job of cleaning most of it off the floor. It was rare that anyone said thank you, none of the results seemed lasting or significant. It could certainly feel mundane and repetitive and even intensely boring.
I needed to be constantly reminded that despite the fact I didn’t get rave performance reviews, or standing ovations, or money or even thanks for the work of caring for children … it was a good work that God saw as intensely valuable. There’s a reason Paul says:
‘And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up’ (Galatians 6:9).
Because the Lord knows doing good can be wearying! For the Christian the answer is not to find something that energises us more, or is more publicly commended, or we find more interesting. The answer is not to seek to live for self rather than die to self.
As we seek to serve in ways that might feel boring, let’s be convicted it is good work that God has prepared for us to do and seek to persevere knowing that a harvest reaping is coming, and our work is not in vain. God sees us doing good and is pleased with it. We do it because of what he has done for us, and we do it for him.
Not greater than our master
I’ve found it helpful to remember what Jesus chose to do to show his disciples the way in which they were to serve. At the last supper he chose to use washing their feet as an example to follow (John 13:1–17). Now obviously the way Jesus serves us is so much richer and deeper than just the physical act of foot washing and there are layers of spiritual significance there. But it’s not less than the actual physical and slightly disgusting act of washing their feet.
Who are we to think we are greater than our master and shouldn’t have to do anything boring, intellectually unstimulating or even pretty gross as we seek to serve and love others?
So, when we are convicted that there is good that God would have us do, let’s not first consider if we will find that good boring or intellectually unstimulating. Let’s not make the yardstick by which we make decisions whether they will entertain us. As we consider the lengths the one who loves us went to in order to serve us, let’s seek to follow his example. Let’s serve like he served, for him and with the strength that he gives us to do it.
Jocelyn Loane is married to Ed, and together they have five children. They have been serving in full-time ministry in a variety of contexts since 2008. They are a part of Naremburn Cammeray Anglican Church.
Bringing Forth Life
Pregnancy and birth bring a whirlwind of change to a woman’s body, identity, life and relationships. This is a huge transition, filled with excitement, uncertainty and anxiety.
What exactly is going on in our bodies? How do we make decisions about pregnancy care and birth? What will life be like as parents? What if something goes wrong?
But beyond these physical and emotional challenges, there is something even deeper going on.
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