I recently visited a young mother with two children—a boy who I’d guess was 9 or 10 and a daughter who appeared to be around 12. It was a pleasure being in their home. The kids were polite—they looked me straight in the eye and answered my patronizing questions about school and sports as if they genuinely appreciated my interest…and perhaps they did.
As we sat on the patio enjoying the summer afternoon, the oldest of the two came out and whispered something to her mother. I thought I heard her use the word “bored”. Immediately, her mother excused herself and walked with her daughter into the house. She emerged later smiling and said, “She gets easily bored and needed me to help her find something to occupy her time.”
I’m not at all critical of her parenting efforts; in fact, I’d give her an A+. But when I heard the word “bored”, suddenly a chill ran down my spine. I was surprised by my reaction and wondered why I suddenly felt 10 years old again?
As I drove away, that same sense of anxiousness returned only this time mellowed by a bittersweet whiff of nostalgia. I wondered aloud, “What is this about? What had been said that triggered such an unexpected return to my childhood? What conjured up the ghost of memories past?” As I drove, I began walking myself back through the conversation on the patio. Nothing came to me. I couldn’t recall anything that might give me pause. But as I continued reflecting on the conversation, the word “bored” emerged and I realized I’d stumbled onto the trigger word. Like a skyrocket on the fourth, it flared into the sky and exploded in my head—BORED! That was it! I smiled because I knew full well why that word elicited such a cosmic disturbance.
I was raised on a hillside farm in rural Berne Township. Dad was a milkman and Mom was a factory worker and money was tight. Fresh food didn’t come from Kroger’s. It was grubbed out of a ½ acre truck patch. A rock infested garden one hundred yards from the nearest water spigot, cocked into the hillside at just the right angle to maximize the sun’s meanest rays. It was my Alcatraz. When I spoke the colorful language of the school yard, my sentence was weeding the garden. When I clobbered my younger brother, regardless of whether he deserved it, I was sentenced to weeding that hateful garden. But if there was a single word that dare not leak from my lips during my childhood, it was the word “bored”.
My mom would spout, “Oh, so you’re bored are you? You can’t find anything to do, huh? Well, young man, see that garden down there just begging to be weeded? Have at it!”
At my grandparent’s house, there’s a phrase my grandpa often repeated when grandma wasn’t around. But because of my exemplary position in the community, I’m not at liberty to quote it verbatim—except to say it described a certain word you wouldn’t say “even if your mouth was full of it.” At our house, the word I’d never say was BORED…even if my mouth was full of it!
Honestly, I’m grateful for the work ethic my parents instilled including my deep-seated paranoia for the word bored). Even today as a theologian/preacher/writer, I find a great sense of fulfillment in a hard day’s work. Plus, it offers a value-added feature—I can’t remember the last time I was bored.
When I think back on that hillside garden, I picture a parallel. I imagine our community as the Lord’s garden—a vast garden constantly in need of good people to tend and till.
The Bible reminds us we are all part of a bigger picture which the Lord has prepared ahead of time and in which we are to participate. “God has made us what we are, and in our union with Christ Jesus he has created us for a life of good deeds, which he has already prepared for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10)
So I’d humbly suggest you not use the word “bored” around the Lord. I also believe He is very pleased when we listen to the still small voice of his Spirit and do the good things he asks us to put our hands and our hearts to. Thanks for reading…and be blessed—RG
Read Ron’s column, Simple Faith, each Saturday on the Faith Page (page 3) of the Lancaster Eagle Gazette, or visit www.lancastereaglegazette.com.