(Cover art courtesy of Thomas Nelson)
Taken from To Hell with the Hustle: Reclaiming Your Life in an Overworked, Overspent, and Overconnected World by Jefferson Bethke Copyright © 2019 by Jefferson Bethke. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson. www.thomasnelson.com.
A hundred years ago, people might have thought if their crops weren’t growing well, they were cursed. Or if their marriage fell apart. Or if a huge sickness hit them.
But for our generation, our curse is much different. It’s having to be ordinary.
And so we run headlong from where richness and depth are hiding. I don’t know another generation so utterly terrified of the thing that can take us there—obscurity, desolation, and ordinariness.
But what if being obscure, to actually welcome it and chase it on some level, gives us the thing we are looking for everywhere else?
Take the phrase “living your best life.” It’s often accompanied with images of insane ambition and life manipulation and an idolatry of productivity. It’s all about building a seven-figure business or trying this new way to hack sleep and morning energy levels, being obsessed with goal-setting, and never saying no to your own dreams and passions. It’s mainly about being noticed.
I’ve personally stopped using that phrase entirely, along with all the other cousins of it (“be more productive,” “be the best you,” “scale your influence,” “chase your dreams,” and things like that). I’ve exchanged it for something that’s been a lot more life giving. And it’s pretty simple. My new life mantra is be boring. Seriously. I have it written as a reminder right next to my computer.
Because what our culture defines as boring (or mediocre or wasteful squandering of talent), the Scriptures and the way of Jesus define as quiet, beautiful, faithful.
So I’m going to keep chasing boring because that’s the thing that’s actually allowing me to live fully. It feels anchored, slow, not anxious, full of joy, and steady, with a peace about it that I think only comes from the quietness of it.
I’ll just be over here, saying no thanks to the Internet onslaught of thought leaders telling me to do more and be more and achieve more. Nah bro, I’m good. I don’t want to lifehack anything, and I don’t want to cheat the work of life.
You can find me chasing a “boring” marriage, and a boring family, a boring work life, and a boring schedule and loving it. Because the thing most of us are chasing in all that insane lifehacking culture—a life of meaning and depth and richness—might be found in the boring instead.
And here’s where I’ve had to grapple with this the most: when thinking about our Christian culture and its obsession with doing “big” things for God. What if God doesn’t want me to do big things for him? Like, at all? What if he just wants me to talk to him and know him and live an ordinary life where I love him and my neighbors well?
Alyssa and I have been doing this YouTube, social media, online thing as a full-time job now for six years, but I’ve come to the conclusion that God doesn’t care about it as much as he cares about other stuff.
I imagine one day God asking me questions about this life I was given and how I lived it.
Hey Jeff, you know that online thing I gave you and Alyssa? Did you steward it well? Okay, cool. Let’s move on.
Hey Jeff, you know that neighbor you’ve lived next to for eight years? What’s his name?
Jeff, you’ve been going to that coffee shop to work a few times a week for the past few years. Have you ever asked the barista her story?
Jeff, how come every time I tried to meet with you or talk to you, you were more excited to be on your phone, or too busy with your schedule, or doing and not being?
Boring is holy.
Obscure is holy.
Mundane is holy.
Boring is not a sign of the curse, but actually a sign of intimacy. How do you judge the closeness of a friendship to someone? Why do you consider your spouse or your best friend or someone in your family the person you are closest to?