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When I first met my future husband, I couldn't see him or talk to him enough. I was enthralled by him and talked to others about him incessantly ("Scott would love that shirt …. Scott thinks … Scott says … Scott … Scott … Scott …). Almost every minute was crowded by thoughts of him. And when we'd leave each other's presence, I'd count the moments until we could be reunited.
Those feelings remind me of when I first became a Christian. I faithfully read my Bible. I prayed often. My mind was crowded with thoughts of God and I talked to others about him incessantly.
But then, as so often happens in relationships, I grew distant. To be honest, I got used to God. I knew all the Bible stories and could recite them in my sleep. The sermons I heard felt like restatements of things I'd heard a million times before. My prayers stalled at asking for and discussing the same things over and over. And while I still loved God and followed him, the thrill was gone. I felt old in my faith; dusty, in a rut.
At one point as I sat on a beach overlooking Lake Michigan, the reality of my situation overwhelmed me and I cried, "I miss you, God. I miss the joy and excitement of knowing and serving the living God. Why am I so … bored?"
Acknowledging the Elephant in the Room
How many people do you know who will say, "Frankly, I'm bored with God"? Most probably won't because they think lightning will strike them! But I've talked with and watched enough Christians to know many of them feel that way, even if they won't admit it.
Acknowledging my own spiritual boredom that day on the beach became a significant turning point in my relationship with God. I think it was so powerful because I was finally honest with myself, and with my Creator. It's funny that I hid that truth deep inside for so long, thinking that if I didn't acknowledge it then no one—including God!—would know. But it was only when I finally got to the end of myself and spoke the truth that God said, "Finally! Now I have something to work with. Let's get started!"
There's great power in acknowledging aloud what we're feeling about God—even when those feelings are less than enthusiastic. In the movie The Apostle, Eulis "Sonny" Dewey, played by Robert Duvall, is a preacher who discovers his wife is having an affair. In one of the most emotional scenes in the movie, Sonny goes into a room, shuts the door, and has a loud argument with God, expressing every feeling, thought, and attitude toward his Creator. He lays everything out, bares it all, holds nothing back. It's honest and vulnerable and oh-so-raw. And it's beautiful—because it's real.
To move forward out of spiritual boredom, the first thing I had to do is be real. I realized I had to acknowledge when I just wasn't "not in the mood" to connect with God. It's not a surprise to him, after all! But that honest confession becomes the starting place for true change to occur.
After my confession time on that beach, I realized three obvious truths: (1) I wasn't bored because God changed; (2) I wasn't unfulfilled because he'd stopped working or being involved in my life; and (3) I needed to start "showing up" in the relationship. I needed to stop relying on the spiritual excitement of the past and renew my energies into growing the future.
If I wanted to infuse my faith with excitement, I realized I would have to make a move toward Christ—to figuratively step out of the boat, as Peter literally did on the Sea of Galilee. Nothing much would happen if I stayed in the boat. So while acknowledging the truth of my feelings and situation is important, it's only a first step. Next I'd have to commit to doing something about it. After all, as John Ortberg so rightly declared: "If you want to walk on water, you have to get out of the boat."
This is where a lot of folks will stop because they think making a change means doing something major—like building the boat before you can step out of it! But I found that major change actually starts with minor changes, one step at a time. And in that one step, true to his character, Jesus is there to catch us.
So my first baby step was to pray a simple, but heartfelt, request. I asked God to make me more aware of him in every moment. Everywhere I turned, I wanted to see his fingerprints. The subtler I could see them, the better. When I prayed that prayer, it was as though God had been standing next to me rubbing his hands back and forth, eagerly anticipating my request. And did he ever answer!
I started to see and notice so many things I'd missed before. My world began to explode with God's presence! I was overwhelmed and in awe of his workings, his graciousness, his love, his character. I was overwhelmed by him. He became my suitor, my pursuer. And in turn, I couldn't get enough of him. In 1 Timothy 6:11, the apostle Paul encourages us to "pursue a righteous life—a life of wonder, faith, love, steadiness, courtesy. Run hard and fast in the faith. Seize the eternal life, the life you were called to, the life you so fervently embraced in the presence of so many witnesses" (The Message, italics added).
There is never boredom in seizing a life of wonder. And when I forget what it looks like to pursue wonder, I look at my three-year-old granddaughter. Eyes wide at everything, quick to laugh unabashedly, and free to run full-steam ahead into anything and everything that holds the slightest possibility of joy and love.
Twisting Routines like a Kaleidoscope
When I was a little girl I was fascinated with kaleidoscopes—cylindrical toys with mirrors and colored shapes inside that would shift into all different sorts of patterns when you'd rotate it. The kaleidoscope was the same, but twisting it just a bit would create a whole new view inside.
My faith-life had begun to feel like an unused kaleidoscope. I participated in church, Bible study, and acts of service, but I never twisted the kaleidoscope to see a different, new, unique view. So after I set about to change my life of boredom with God into a life of freshness, I decided that I needed to change the routines of my faith.
I started to attend church on Saturday nights, at the beginning of Sabbath (which I also started to practice). I began to look forward to attending church again because I wasn't so rushed in the mornings to wake up early and speed around trying to get ready. And practicing Sabbath allowed me to recalibrate my entire life. I began to look forward to that day when I could do none of the have-tos and all of the want-tos. I was reading good books and napping and cooking and playing games. I was having fun—and it focused my mind more on the God of joy and play—such a different aspect of the Almighty that I had too often overlooked or neglected.
Another exciting change to my relationship came when I picked up an audio Bible and began to listen to it during my daily commute to and from work. I was still "reading" my Bible, but in a fresh way. I was turning that kaleidoscope.
That different way of taking in Scripture breathed new life into the stories I'd grown up hearing. God began to use them to show me a truer portrait of himself. For instance, one day I was listening to the passage in Exodus when Moses is on the mountain receiving God's instructions for his people. God gave the Ten Commandments (which I was very familiar with), but God also went into precise detail about things that we tend to skip over in our reading, such as the clothing Aaron would need to wear as a holy priest. The instructions about the priests, specifically naming Aaron, went on for three chapters (28-30). Since I was listening instead of reading just a chapter at a time, I heard that entire lengthy section in context. Then, right after that section, came the story of Aaron creating the golden calf idol.
All of a sudden the timing of that story overwhelmed me. God was going into great detail about the plans he had for Aaron at the same time Aaron was sinning! It wasn't as though God didn't know what Aaron was up to. But God was, in the midst of his instructions, showing that he had plans for Aaron and that Aaron was still part of the kingdom—even in the midst of his downfall. Putting all those chapters together gave me a bigger—and truer—picture of God's character. That's something I hadn't received completely when I would simply read a chapter a day and go on my way. Just another fresh twist of the kaleidoscope.
One Thing at a Time
The biggest realization about my boredom with God was the most difficult: I can't multi-task and put God in the mix. Our society has become great at multi-tasking: texting, checking emails, iPads, iPhones, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, TV … Rarely do we focus on just one thing at a time anymore—including our relationships. It all becomes white noise, and the white noise covers over the quiet, gentle voice of our Creator.
I've been in situations in which the people I was visiting never gave me their undivided attention. They'd glance at their phones or just pick them up and start surfing the Internet or texting. They'd interrupt me to say something to someone else. Their eyes would wander. Those times certainly didn't make me feel respected or honored. I didn't leave them thinking, That was a great time of connecting. We should do that again.
But that's what I'd so often done to God. I would do quiet times on the fly, or check my Bible app for the daily verse and then get to the important stuff of my day. It hurts to admit that! But that's what my actions were showing my Father.
When I get so used to multi-tasking, I can feel bored or impatient when only one thing is going on at a time. To have a singular focus can sometimes make me feel jittery and annoyed. But God wants my undivided attention. He wants to connect at a deep level—something that takes times, focus, and quiet.
We often become bored with God because he asks for our undivided attention and we have forgotten how to give it. It's difficult to see God's fingerprints on everything, as I'd prayed about, if I'm scattered and busy all the time.
So I decided to set some boundaries. Technology is great—but I only check it at certain times in the day, and no more. When I'm with other people, I try to focus completely on them, actively listening and honoring who they are as God's created and loved children. The more I've stuck to my boundaries, the more I see God's amazing work and creativity. I slow down to take it in and I am in wonder all over again.
When Boredom Creeps In Again
I look back on my beach confession and thank God that I finally got honest with him. It made me more aware of my part in that boredom and how I could change to make the most of my faith, energies, and creativity. Now when boredom begins to creep in, I acknowledge it again and ask God to show me where I've moved away from him.
The truth is that God never grows weary in pursuing us as his loved ones; he never stops being our suitor; he never takes a break in creating pleasure for us. He lavishes his love on us. And when I put all that in perspective, that I should become bored with God is a sheer impossibility! What a mighty God we truly serve.
Ginger Kolbaba is the author of Desperate Pastors' Wives and The Old Fashioned Way. Connect with her on Twitter @gingerkolbaba.