Life Is MEANT to be Boring

When I was a teenager I remember the horrible pressure I felt each Friday & Saturday night to be out doing something AMAZing or HILarious. And I remember the restlessness I’d feel every time I just stayed home; after all, what if people were out having fun and laughing and I wasn’t included? What if I was the butt of their joke? What if, by missing the joke, I missed out on learning what people really thought about me? Oh the anxiety and restless turmoil of those stay-at-home Saturday nights. It’s safe to say that I don’t miss teenagehood.

Times changed, I Uni’d the thirst for parties out of my system and now I have no problem staying in on a weekend; I’m really quite good and vegetating on a sofa in front of a film now.

Times have changed and so has the trigger for those emotions, but the restlessness still surfaces from time to time. Now it’s not so much about missing a party but about an opportunity, or not making the most of good health and youth. There is a reluctance in me to admit that life is a lot more mundane than I want it to be. That’s really what was going on when I was 18. I refused to admit (it couldn’t be true after all) that life wasn’t a constant weekend or a daily adrenaline/lust fuelled encounter. My restlessness was a wrestling match between reality and fantasy. I wanted life to be all consuming and intoxicating. I wanted life to exhaust me and exhilarate me and thrill me. Instead it just sort of was. Life just is and I’m a single solitary soul in the middle of an ecosystem that seems able to balance itself and sustain itself each morning just fine without me.

What I mean to say is that I think our need for adventures and for a good story is killing us. It was fine when we weren’t individuals like we are now; fine when our lives were connected more to our communities. Now that we’re expected to find a story/purpose big enough from within the confines of our own two eyes, I’m not sure we can cope. Individualism and the sovereignty of the individual is leaving red marks on our shoulders; this backpack’s too heavy to carry. I certainly can’t carry it, I don’t think I’m made to.

Left to ourselves, to myselves, life IS boring and we weren’t made for boring. There’s plenty of wonder and beauty and majesty and adventure in this world, but almost all of it takes place out there; outside ourselves shared with others.

The everyday, regular and mundane is only boring when it’s disconnected from any bigger meaning. I only need to ‘reinvent’ myself if the ‘myself’ I’ve invented is detached from the ‘ourselves’ of community/nation/family. Then again I don’t believe that community is enough either. Deriving more meaning from community/family/nation is certainly possible but I don’t believe that’s enough for us either. We are complex creatures who thirst for purpose and story; unusual since we’ve convinced ourselves that the thing we thirst for doesn’t really exist. It’s only when I see my life, and my friends and my virtue and my experiences, as things connected to ultimate reality that I start to discover a story big enough to rid me of the bored restlessness. It’s only then that my mundanes turn into memories, my chores become choruses and every routine becomes a worship ritual.

What I’m saying is that our lives (individually) matter to God. Our creator and Father takes delight in, and derives pleasure from us his creatures. He knows about the birds, he calls the sun out each day, he’s there with the mountain goats giving birth and he orchestrates the times and seasons of life under the sun. Our lives are not mean simply to become absorbed into nothingness, a corporate faceless, nameless blancmange of vanilla. He made us to be known by him, to know the pleasure he derives from us irrespective of success/achievement. Life may feel random and meaningless but it isn’t?

What if it was true that there is a story and a meaning and a reason for everything? Could it be that the reason our soul craves it is because it actually exists? After all, physical hunger exists because food does not in spite of it.

My life matters because God delights in me and my life is an adventure since he’s on an adventure and I’m with him. Life is boring when it’s about me but it isn’t, so it isn’t.

by Jez Field

Significance

I am intrigued by the significance of significance. Many of us seem to be engaged in an all consuming, never-ending search for satisfaction in this area. We want to believe that we matter; we need to believe it.

Personally it surprises me how much of my inner life has to do with the pursuit of feeling worthwhile and valuable. It’s as though somewhere along the line my will made a secret pact with my emotions to work together to manipulate and manoeuvre every thing I do to basically be about serving that end.

I watched The Truman Show when I was a teenager and was convinced for a while that it was true of my life. I stared into a marble once at home saying ‘hello!’ to the people behind the camera. It didn’t seem much of a leap for me to believe that I was the centre of the world’s attention, that the world basically exists to watch me and make me a star. Urgh I cringe even to write those words, but if I’m honest I can still see those same sentiments lurking.

I blame my parents. No wait, I blame their parents; I mean if they hadn’t unleashed on all these baby boomers a newfound sense of ‘life is short, so go remake it in your image’ then I wouldn’t be so downright self obsessed and consumed by ideas of personal grandeur.

Here’s my theory, and actually I blame Hitler – that’s how to really win an argument: My grandparents’ generation, traumatised by the brutality of the second World War, commodified sex by inventing the contraceptive pill and released on their children an attitude of Total Consumerism in a way never before seen. Nothing was going to stop them from grabbing life and running with it. Their experience could be remade in their image.

The values unleashed (literally removed from a leash) by my grandparents are only now starting to find their fruition in my generation. And what does all of this amount to, our obsession for experience and consumption? Significance, a life-consuming craving for it.

That’s my theory, except that it’s flawed.

I can’t blame Hitler for my approval addiction. This goes way beyond him. Presently we’re getting used to a slightly more unbridled (unhinged?) version of something that’s always been there. A desire for legacy and significance is what drove Achilles to fight in a battle he knew he’d die in after all.

Perhaps there’s some evolutionary hardwiring at work; yes that’s how we explain everything now isn’t it – evolution is our grand guiding philosophy. It’s my DNA, my selfish genes drive me to it – ironically even my jeans are selfish since I don’t know how ethically they’ve been made. What I mistake as a search for significance is really an inner drive to procreate, continue my line and enhance the wellbeing of my tribe. The trouble is I’ve produced three children, have a good reputation in my community, have the respect of my wife and friends and am materially and physically well-off. I am ludicrously rich by globals standards and have very little real need in my life. And yet it still isn’t enough. My mind still ‘relaxes’ by comparing my status with that of my peers, my mind is forever trying to convince me (or have me believe) that the grass is much greener in some other field, some other town, some other job, some other choice or cause and effect outcome. I must be the centre of the universe, I must be significant. I am forever restless until I arrive at being eternally recognised as significant.

I am surprised by how moveable the goalposts of significance are in my life. I had an idea when I was a teenager of what a significant life involved, it became the quest of my subconsciousness to attain it. Back then it was some talent I simply had to master in order to matter, and then (when I realised my own mediocrity) it was a job I simply had to have. After that it became about having a reputation, that people spoke well of me. Then (when I realised how dissatisfying that is – because who’s ever around to hear people say nice things about you? I mean there’s nothing fulfilling in not overhearing a conversation) it then became about something else… All of it, always searching for significance and never quite reaching it.

You know that feeling of holding a plastic ball under water? It’s like that. The ball is fighting to find its proper balance, to rest on the surface of the water. Life is like that, always fighting to find rest in the form of significance and purpose and peace with the world whilst being in the world.

I’ve found one particular ancient writer’s words make sense of this best:
You have formed us for yourselves and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you.
And that is the real quest going on.

by Jez Field

Empowered by grace

author: Sally Golding

‘It is by grace you have been saved, through faith- this is not from yourselves, it is a gift of God- not by works so that no-one can boast.’ Ephesians 2:8-9.

I don’t know how many times I had quoted that scripture in my near 30 years of being a Christian, when I was confronted with the reality that I didn’t really believe it! My following testimony will explain how I had been operating on a ‘saved by grace, kept by works’ value system.

I became a Christian when I was 17, learning the wonderful truths of God’s unconditional, sacrificial love. However, I didn’t read my Bible on a regular basis, nor was I disciplined with prayer and this habit was not then helped by working shifts as a nurse where routine was not part of my life. I would talk to the Lord often and be aware of His presence, but ‘regular’ prayer and Bible reading were not factored into my life, so the maturing process was not as it should have been even though the important relationship with the Lord had been established.

Seasons changed and from working shifts to having children, habits didn’t improve, but whilst  Ephesians 2 verses 8 and 9 were well-known to me ( as they had been quoted from the ‘pulpit’ on many occasions), at the back of my mind, I somehow thought that God would be more pleased with me if I ‘did’ more prayer and Bible reading. So I would have spates of reading large chunks of my Bible and trying to pray more routinely but of course I would fall back into old habits!

About 3 years ago, during a time of particularly enjoying God’s presence, I was ‘feeling’ Him near me all the time in spite of not really ‘doing’ anything. So I asked the Lord when this season would end as I wasn’t working to sustain it. Immediately, His response to me was, ‘My grace NEVER runs out.’ I sensed this ‘hit’ my spirit- like a rebuke, but with amazing reassurance- and I just stood in the street where I was and worshipped Him!

This was the beginning of a journey I am still on. Following, what I call my ‘Grace Encounter’, the next morning I woke up thinking of a book I had only ever seen on a shelf in the Christian bookshop, ‘What’s so amazing about grace?’ by Philip Yancey. Wondering if it really was the Lord speaking to me or whether I had made it up, I was reluctant to buy the book for it just to go part-read onto our bookshelf! So first I asked a friend if she had a copy I could borrow to ‘try it out’ before I purchased one  but she wasn’t sure and was going to look for me. In the meantime I came across a second-hand copy for just £1 in a local bookshop.

I read this book and because it had such a profound effect on me, I started to read it again and make notes on it(I’m not recommending the book as such because the Lord was speaking specifically to me through it). The end result was I had a greater understanding of the grace of God towards me, enabling me to be more gracious to others.

The amazing thing is that since the ‘encounter’ I have read my Bible both more in quantity and frequency, have seen more answered prayers and have a greater compassion for others, none of it driven by a ‘works mentality’, but rather inspired and spurred on by a desire to know this God of grace and give away the blessing that has come to me. I am saved by grace and empowered by grace to do the works- I give Him all the glory!