Here you will find a monthly message from Pastor Bill Wade.
Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!
I have this little saying that I tell my children, especially in the summer, when I hear one of them whine about being bored. In typical Dad-fashion, I respond with the sage wisdom of: “You’re not bored; you’re boring!” I hope that they hear the intended humor in my eye-roll-worthy proverb, as I suggest they explore the endless opportunities of books, games, or playing outside. But what if escaping boredom isn’t all it’s cracked up to be? What if it’s closer to the truth that we just aren’t bored enough?
I read an article recently by Dr. Derek Halvorson, president of Covenant College titled “In Praise of Boredom” [The View, Spring 2017]. He quoted a University of Virginia and Harvard joint research project that found that “participants typically did not enjoy spending 6 to 15 minutes in a room by themselves with nothing to do but think… and that many preferred to administer electric shocks to themselves instead of being left alone with their thoughts.” Wow, those people really do not like being bored! But we’re not really all that different. How often do we check Instagram or play a quick round of Candy Crush or Mahjong on our smart phone when the store checkout line is taking too long? We could spend that time actually having a polite conversation with the salesperson. The fact is, we have trained ourselves to respond to the slightest hint of boredom with… distraction.
One of my favorite songs by the group Twenty One Pilots is called “Car Radio”. The song that tells the melancholy story of a time when the singer had his car broken into and someone stole his radio. So, now he finds himself forced to drive around in… uncomfortable quietness. He sings:
There's no hiding for me / I'm forced to deal with what I feel
There is no distraction to mask what is real / I could pull the steering wheel
I have these thoughts, so often I ought / To replace that slot with what I once bought
'Cause somebody stole my car radio / And now I just sit in silence…
(If you’ve never heard the song, look it up - it’s got a creative, weird edge to it, but it’s brilliant.) If you personally do not feel a high sense of discomfort with being left alone with nothing but your own thoughts, then realize that many in our culture do. We are a people of distraction. Perhaps the problem is that we have lost the ability to wait. In Psalm 27:14 it’s not enough to tell us once to wait for the Lord, we have to be told twice! And then, in Psalm 37:7 we’re instructed: Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him…
How often do you work be still and wait patiently into your daily routine? Maybe we need to train ourselves to be okay with a little boredom. Maybe our children would benefit from a little boredom now and then too. How much would our children love it if mom or dad just sat with them for a while and did nothing… together! Maybe we’d regain a little bit of the art of conversation again, or maybe - just maybe - we’d find that God shows up when we stop crowding Him out with all the things that distract us. It’s summertime - enjoy a little boredom!
I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth… For we are God’s fellow workers.
You are God’s field… (1 Corinthians 3:6–9)
Our 3rd - 5th graders just finished planting the garden next to the church building to raise produce for our local food pantry. The process of growing plants seems to be one of God’s favorite illustrations in the Bible. One of the lessons we learn from gardening is the glory of monotony (which is probably why I’m not a better gardener). We don’t like waiting. Or doing the same things over-and-over again. Or… waiting. (How grumpy do we get when we try to load a web page and it doesn’t appear fully on our screen in 0.2 seconds flat?)
One way we can learn to glory in monotony is to realize that in some ways we are the planted, and in some ways we are the planters. God loves to plant things and to watch them grow - it’s one of His core character traits. G. K. Chesterton once wrote:
Because children have abounding vitality… they always say, ‘Do it again’; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, ‘Do it again’ to the sun; and every evening, ‘Do it again’ to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. [quoted in Zack Eswine, The Imperfect Pastor, p. 85]
God says to us every morning, “Do it again: Go to work. Finish that homework assignment. Balance the checkbook. Forgive your neighbor (for the umpteenth time). Pull the weeds. Do the dishes. Forgive your neighbor (for the umpteenth time plus one)…” One of our tasks as a human being is to endure through the monotony of life and keep on producing for God’s glory. Doesn’t it feel good to hear God say to us: I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary (Revelation 2:3)? Keep planting; the work is worth the monotony.
But the Gospel is not complete if it’s all about planting and trying to keep up with God. Before we ever pick up a garden spade, we remember that we ourselves have been planted. God gave us life, Christ replanted us in His own vineyard with new life, and the Holy Spirit causes us to grow to maturity. But even being a plant takes patience. Samuel Rutherford wrote when he was practically imprisoned for his faith: “The Great Master Gardener, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, in a wonderful providence with his own hand, planted me here, where by his grace, in this part of his vineyard, I grow; and here I will abide till the great master of the vineyard think fit to transplant me.” [Eswine, 86] That’s the attitude we long for: contentment over restlessness. We are planted by a loving Gardener who knows what He is doing; surely we can trust in His plan to plant us where we belong and to grow us into what we are meant to become.
As members of the church we are both God’s field and planters in God’s field. So let’s work and wait, proclaim the Gospel and pray for Gospel fruit - and trust that God has a plan to use us to grow His church for His glory.
April 2, 2017