Reflections

Distractions: Approach or Avoidance?

I recall travelling before my graduation from high school with a friend to Mackinaw, Michigan.  Being history buffs we visited Fort Michlimackinaw on the northern tip of the state’s Lower Peninsula: a French later occupied British fort established before the French and Indian War.   The area had extensive archaeological digs which intrigued us and the museum recreated the digs showing some of the artifacts that were discovered at different depths.   What surprised me was one faded card discovered from a lost deck of playing cards.   The signs read that life on the fort was extremely boring and soldiers were always about attempting to find distractions to ameliorate it.

When is the last time you felt bored?  Boredom is a restlessness in the mind and soul and has been described by mental and spiritual health professionals as when a person’s “center is not holding.”  What does one do when they’re bored?   Most people attempt to stay busy.  We can be extremely busy and still be bored–the busyness distracting us from our boredom.

I often ask myself if my activities are more of an approach to that which is meaningful or a distraction which will push away boredom a little while longer.  There is nothing wrong with distractions.  I enjoy a good game of cards like anyone else does.  The question I ask myself is, “Do I keep seeking stuff on the outside of me to attempt to quell the boredom that comes from the inner part of me?”

I often tell parents when it comes to raising children, to focus more on what they want to approach, say “yes” to, than avoid, say “no” to.   Sometimes “no” is very appropriate such as “don’t touch that hot stove!”  More often than not we can reframe situations for what choices children can approach for a positive outcome than to focus on what to avoid for a negative one.   We can never really learn what to do when we’re focusing on what not to do.

I have found it helpful to listen to the restlessness or the boredom within to hear what the Spirit might be telling me (but it’s not always easy).  One factor in being more restricted in how we’re spending our time during the COVID-19 event is that we will have more time for boredom and restlessness to arise.  Many things we enjoy have been suspended for awhile which can contribute to boredom.  Listening to our restlessness well enough to enter it in all its unpleasantness is a way we can approach the Spirit rather than to avoid what we might really need to hear and know.   Approaching the unrest can be the Voice of the Spirit calling us to Himself, to approach God at the same time to quench the spiritual thirst that lies at the core of our boredom.   Resting in God is never boring.  Resting in God is the place where we receive new direction to leave the enclaves of the fort in which we now find ourselves, know as the “four walls” or “cabin fever” in new ways.

Restlessness and boredom are gifts.  They are the Spirit’s message that calls us to a mutual  Zoom meeting–but the meeting won’t be virtual.  God isn’t limited by a six foot rule.

Give thanks for your restlessness and boredom: they are a path on our way home to God.

Peace,

Fr. Mark