Friday, May 14, 2010

I'm an Idolator and I Might Get Bored

Apparently comfort can be an idol, and I am at high risk for comfort-idolatry. This can lead to the sin of boredom. I don’t know how deadly this is, but I shall remain alert.

If you’re in a hurry, feel free to skip this two-paragraph aside regarding the work-ethic of pastors.

It is a common perception that pastors work only one day a week. I’m often asked, “What do you do the rest of the week?” Defending full-time ministry isn’t the purpose of my blog today, but I will say this: a passionate minister lives, breathes, and sleeps the ministry they serve. The visible hours they spend on services, office hours, etc., are but a shadow of the time they dedicate each week, seeking God and implementing the ministry they are called to.

So, just like everyone else, something we do the rest of the week is attend meetings. One that I attend five times a year is the preview committee for Iowa Religious Media Services. It’s a resource library for churches across the state, including everything from American Baptist to Methodist, Presbyterian, and Catholic churches. They parade new and controversial resources before us, so that we can determine whether they add value to the collection and fall within an acceptable range of theology and utility for our churches. As I explained to my girls: they ask me for my opinion and then pay me for it with pizza. That probably sounds great, but for every exciting resource, there are three that could only inspire Insomniacs.

Flipping through the companion piece to a resource, I found a list of personal motivators and their risks. The list included affirmation, material possessions, and so on. Affirmation could lead to pride, material things could lead to greed, and so on. I scanned the list for what motivation I potentially value more than God. I acknowledge that everything on the list holds some sway for all of us, but the one that caught my eye was “comfort.” It meant that you were motivated by finding ease, enjoyment, relaxation, and fun. Taken too far, it could lead to boredom. The description resonated with me, because ease, enjoyment, relaxation, and fun are definitely strong motivators for me!

I love the Lord, but living this frazzled, clunky human life is a close second, and I intentionally resist the pressure to overachieve. More than possessions, or affirmation, or art, or whatever else I can’t remember off the list, I love being together with my beloved ones; I love lying on a hammock in the sun; I love eating delicious food; I love seeing and trying new things. Like I said above, I live and breathe the ministry I’ve been called to, but if I could live out my devotion to Christ each morning on a sandy beach with an ice cold drink, building sandcastles with my kids, reading a Bible stained by saltwater spray, then hiking new peaks in the afternoon, I’d be there! Life is so chock-full of possibilities and inspirations, I cannot imagine boredom. There is always something to do! A flower to plant, a project to sew, a book to read, a person or place to visit…I could see my desire for comfort leading to bankruptcy, co-dependence, and an intolerably messy house, but boredom? Really?

My own resistance to this prognosis deepens my concern. Not only am I motivated by comfort, but I’m not really fighting it. The temptation to keep it light and enjoy things whenever possible, to suck the marrow from each passing moment, is something I’m going to battle for a long, long time. I guess I’ll let you know when I start feeling bored…will I know I’m bored when it happens?  I'm going to have to be alert.

What do you think?  Does what motivates you also, potentially, distract you? Is there a spiritual practice that can counter it?  What do you recommend?

If you are guided by the Spirit, you won't obey your selfish desires. God's Spirit makes us loving, happy, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, and self-controlled. Galations 5:16, 22-23

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