Since I started working with Seed at the beginning of this year, I’ve revisited a book by Rob Bell a couple of times called ‘How To Be Here: A Guide to Creating a Life Worth Living’. Especially his thinking in this book about how to live in the moment, and joyfully do the things that make us come alive stands out to me. It’s deeply connected to the work we’re doing with Seed: investing in changemakers, helping them create Redemptive Solutions in the context where God has placed them.
Rather than rewrite the book into a blogpost, I’d just like to share a part of it that speaks to me. We can be so focused on creating things and moving forward that we fail to realise we are actually feeling bored, cynical or even despaired with what we see around us. We fail to realise there is a deep underlying question: Who are you to do something?
So, Bell says the following in his book: Boredom is lethal. Boredom says, There’s nothing interesting to make here. Boredom reveals what we believe about the kind of world we’re living in. Boredom is lethal because it reflects a static, fixed view of the world—a world that is finished.
Cynicism is slightly different from boredom, but just as lethal. Cynicism says, There’s nothing new to make here. Often, cynicism presents itself as wisdom, but it usually comes from a wound. Cynicism acts as though it’s seen a lot and knows how the world works, shooting down new ideas and efforts as childish and uninformed. Cynicism points out all the ways something could go wrong, how stupid it is, and what a waste of time it would be. Cynicism holds things at a distance, analysing, mocking and noting all the possibilities for failure. Often, this is because the cynic tried something new at some point and it went belly-up, he was booed off the stage. The pain causes him to critique and ridicule others because if you hold something at a distance and make fun of it, then it can’t hurt you.
And then there’s despair. While boredom can be fairly subtle, and cynicism can appear quite intelligent and even funny, despair is like a dull thud in the heart. Despair says, Nothing that we make matters. Despair reflects a pervasive dread that it’s all pointless and that we are, in the end, simply wasting our time.
Boredom, cynicism, and despair are spiritual diseases because they disconnect us from the most primal truth about ourselves—that we are here, created by God and invited to co-create this World with Him.
All three distance us from the real questions of life:
How are you going to respond to this life you have been given?
What are you going to do with it?
What are you going to make here?
They’re exciting questions, filled with possibility but then there’s this other question: Who are you to do this?
To answer the question, Who are you to do this?, you first have to get out of your head.
I use this phrase ‘out of your head’ because that’s where it’s easy to get stuck. Somewhere between our hearts and our minds is an internal dialogue, a running commentary on what we think and feel and believe about ourselves and others. It’s the voices in your head that speak doubt and insecurity and fear and anxiety. Like a tape that’s jammed on “repeat,” these destructive messages will drain an extraordinary amount of your energies if you aren’t clear, focused and grounded.
To get out of your head, it’s important to embrace several truths about yourself and those around you, beginning with this one: Who you aren’t isn’t interesting.
You have a list of all the things you aren’t, the things you can’t do, the things you’ve tried that didn’t go well. Regrets, mistakes that haunt you, moments when you crawled home in humiliation. For many of us, this list is the source of head games, usually involving the words,
Not smart enough,
not talented enough,
not disciplined enough,
not educated enough,
not beautiful, thin, popular, or hardworking enough,
you can fill in the ___________
Here is the truth about those messages: They aren’t interesting.
What you haven’t done,
where you didn’t go to school,
what you haven’t accomplished,
who you don’t know and what you are scared of simply aren’t interesting.
I’m not very good at math. If I get too many numbers in front of me, I start to space out. See? Not interesting.
If you focus on who you aren’t, and what you don’t have, or where you haven’t been, or skills or talents or tools or resources you’re convinced aren’t yours, precious energy will slip through your fingers that you could use to do something with that blinking line.
In the same way that who you aren’t isn’t interesting, who “they” are isn’t interesting either.
We all have our they—friends, neighbours, co-workers, family members, superstars who appear to skate by effortlessly while we slog it out. They are the people we fixate on, constantly holding their lives up to our life, using their apparent ease and success as an excuse to hold back from doing our work and pursuing our path in the world.
Siblings who don’t have to study and still get better grades. Brothers-in-law who make more money without appearing to work very hard. Friends who have kids the same age as ours and yet they never seem stressed or tired and always look great.
We each have our own life, our own blinking line, and every path has its own highs and lows, ups and downs, joys, challenges, and difficulties. When you compare yourself with others, you have no idea what challenges they are facing. We rob ourselves of immeasurable joy when we compare what we do know about ourselves with what we don’t know about someone else.
Who am I to do this?
Let me suggest a new question, a better question. Who am I not to do this?