23.8.05

Jesus Army Life, Day 41: Bored

Last night was one of those lazy evenings. Sure, I had things to get on with and was steadily working through my 'to do' list, but at one point I paused. One of our newer members was bored. All her immediate friends were busy I guess, though it might have a whole list of other tiny issues that can make you feel disengaged. She was just moping through the kitchen looking for something to do, so I paused to chat for a moment. We were joined by a brother and then a sister and another brother came along later.

It's one of the interesting things about community: if you stand still long enough and show interest in someone else, it usually turns into an enjoyable 'scene' of some sort. ('Scene' is one of those words I'm led to believe isn't much used outside the Jesus Army, except in certain subcultures, it just means a buzzing congregation of individuals.)

I do sympathise with the sister though, and another member who also complained of boredom later that evening. In your own place you are surrounded by your own comforts, it maybe a television or some music or a good book. When you are bored, one of those things will normally entertain you, but in community, with a life of simplicity and the absence of television, the biggest entertainment is other people. Being bored can drive you to distraction!

Living simply so that others can simply live is a challenge for our immature spiritual natures (aka the flesh) because it means that you have to engage with others at a deeper, less superficial level. Now, personally, I hate small talk, so the thought of making contact with someone through heartfelt conversation really appeals to me (though I used to find it difficult to open up and 'share' properly). However, if you find it tricky to flow with another person to that degree, and surprisingly this seems to effect extroverts more, then you are left with a boredom itch and often no one to scratch it.

What can you do about being bored in community? I think partly it comes down to vision. If you believe in the life you've chosen to live then you get on and live it. The two I mentioned above aren't fully-committed members of the common purse so they haven't made that commitment yet; and that's fair enough, they still feel they need to be doing other things. Existing in the spirit as opposed to the flesh starts with being willing to take on the hardship of a more purposeful walk.

The truth is that when you give yourself to others, that self-giving is fulfilling in itself, but you have to get rid of selfishness to find the fulfillment. And, when that happens, you can feel rather grateful for those times when the pace does slow down and you have time to concentrate on other things that need doing. As our pastor said on Sunday: serving means that you feel less like a spare part and more naturally involved. You begin to care about what is happening in the community and responsible for your part in it. That may lead you to pray or do something encouraging for someone else.

There's also the issue of soul healing though. Life's events can rough us up a bit. When that happens it's not always so easy to open up to someone else. Just being with someone without being active can make you feel nervous and those awkward silences become too apparent. Sometimes it's useful to do away with all the clamoring for entertainment so that people can get used to just appreciating each other. There's a lot of beauty in life which we can miss if we try to fill every space with something to do.

Everyone gets bored sometimes. It can simply come down to an issue of not having people around who are the same age as you. Ultimately however, we all need to look out for each other, which means dropping your agenda of things to do for someone else.