-- 1 Peter 1:6-9
Saturday, August 3, 2013
When Life Seems Boring
There is one channel on the television set that I tend to watch more than others. I watch detective stories there, which my analytical mind finds interesting. The storyline always has a main character; that’s the one everyone questions and analyzes, and wonders: What will he do next? But, of course, we know what he will do and how the story will end; the bad guy goes to jail --- but still we watch in interest.
Sometimes, if the story gets too long or the pace seems too slow, I might turn the channel. If you are honest, you’ll admit you often do too. We are so easily bored these days. Perhaps you might turn to a sex channel (I don’t even have access to them), or to a “reality” show about the neighbors --- who seem to live an inordinate amount of time in their bedrooms. But if you’re honest, certainly this must be boring after a while also. Just how many ways can your sexual parts touch or be touched? And an orgasm is an orgasm is an orgasm. You know you’re lying to yourself if you think each is so wonderful and unique --- and “so necessary.” That’s the advertisement of the drug dealer on the corner --- and you know how much you can trust him. No, this is a channel you turn off in boredom too, even faster than the first. There’s a reason, even beyond medical, that the commercial warns you against having an erection for more than 4 hours. It’d be boring, and they want you to continue to buy their product.
But there are lots of other channels we can turn to in our life. There’s a shopping channel and a cooking channel, and even a nature channel on which we can watch animals --- as if there is something more valuable to be gained by watching them than by watching, say, a rock. No, all of these quickly become boring also. With a thousand channels now available for us to watch, why do we still so easily become bored?
The answer is in the very purpose of the television: to focus us on what we want, or think we want. Its purpose is no different than the Roman Coliseum was for the citizens of Rome: to distract them from things of importance. It’s like the magician who says “look at THIS hand,” as he takes away something with his other hand. He means to distract us.
We were not given this precious thing, life, merely to be entertained, to be sexually aroused 24 hours a day. All life, especially human life, is meant to DO something, something important. Even the prettiest flowers are not meant to just sit and look pretty, they are meant to grow and thrive and spread new life to future flowers. No flower is meant to just be looked at by others, much less to have a total self-focus. Neither is human life.
Man is created out of love, and is meant to grow in a self-giving love. He was not created to focus on himself, like watching some television channel, but on others. We so easily forget this because of the effort required to act in a love focused on others, and the lack of feedback we so much desire. Giving love is work, and like all work, we want to see results. It requires much dedication and patience, but sometimes despite our best efforts, the results disappoint us.
Building a house requires dedication and patience also, and sometimes the results there too may seem less than ideal. We might have to re-do certain areas of our work, or perhaps seek outside help from “the experts” --- maybe even God. But that’s just how all of our efforts at living (and at loving) work. That is how we were made to work, with toil and trial and yes, with error.
We often look at our life and our efforts like we look at that television program. I cared for my mother for years, and watched what was happening to her and those around her (myself included) kind of like watching that detective show: I wondered what would happen next. And as I watched the show, there were many unexpected twists and turns along the way. But I knew how the story would end: not with some bad guy going to jail, but with a good woman going to heaven.
There were times along the way that the show seemed to get a little long and maybe a little boring, but I guess I liked the lead character, and so I still watched. I tried to stay focused and not turn the channel of my attention to something “more fun.” I am well aware that there are others who might be watching a similar show in their lives, and perhaps they do turn the focus. Care-giving, loving someone in need -- even a parent -- can be a very difficult thing. And the other channels we might turn our focus to can seem so much more appealing and entertaining --- to us. But that’s the whole point of this analogy about life: it cannot be all about us. We are wrong if we look at our life’s situation and cry: “Woe is me.” If this is your cry, you are looking at your life like watching television, and you are wanting to change the channel. You want more interesting or fun things --- for you.
If you consider your life and are compelled to say “woe is me,” you need is not to change the channel, but turn off the television, and stop considering some better entertainment for yourself. Focus on life as it is.
For some of us, there is a house to be cleaned, children to be loved, and a job to go to. The channel of our life cannot be turned, and we should not be daydreaming about doing so. Life is sometimes hard, and it is sometimes boring, but that IS life. Life has a purpose, a meaning, and we are not meant to watch it, but to live it. Not to seek love, but to seek to give love, to make a difference to even one other. Even if we are not aware that we made that difference to someone else, God is.
When life is at its most difficult and we feel unloved, forgotten, or worthless, that is when life is worth its most. And that is when we most need to focus our life, to aim at fulfilling its true purpose. When we want to ask: “Does it matter if I live” is when we should take actions to ensure our life DOES matter. Then is the time to stop focusing on ourselves and our woes, and seek and/or accept every opportunity that arises to give love, aid, and counsel to someone else.
When we most feel alone is the time to find someone lonelier.
My mother died and I have a great hole in my life. Perhaps you have had some tragedy in your life, a great sadness you wish would end. But now is not the end of your life. Like a particular episode of a television show, something or someone you focused on – an episode in your life – may be over, but no matter how absorbed in it you were, you go on. Our life is full of changes, of phases, of episodes, of tragedies, but our life goes on. And it goes on with a purpose.
At the end of the detective show, the bad guy is meant to go to jail. At the end of our life we are meant to go to heaven --- it’s a happy ending. It’s the story Jesus wrote for us. The detective works to get the bad guy in jail, not moaning all day: “why don’t I get a promotion?” So why do we cry and moan at each bad turn along the way? Even the detective occasionally gets punched out by the bad guy. But if you can be content to watch that story, why can’t you be content to live yours? At least your story is new --- and no one’s seen it before. And, if you were honest with yourself, you’d find it kind of exciting: “I wonder how God gets even this sad sap into heaven?” And He will, if you let Him, and join in your life’s story, and not just watch it.
No life story is boring, especially our own. If things are bad now, go out and buy some popcorn, the next scene will be better. Have patience; have faith. ACT with patience and faith. Do not be anxious.
There is cause for rejoicing here. You may for a time have to suffer the distress of many trials; but this is so that your faith, which is more precious than the passing splendor of fire-tried gold, may by its genuineness lead to praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ appears. Although you have never seen him, you love him, and without seeing you now believe in him, and rejoice with inexpressible joy touched with glory because you are achieving faith’s goal, your salvation.
-- 1 Peter 1:6-9
-- 1 Peter 1:6-9