I had a fascinating conversation today with some girlfriends from my ministry, and it made me think of so many similar conversations I have had with my millennial-church-goer friends recently. We were participating in what I affectionately call a round of “Get Real Mobile,” a completely made-up “game” where whenever you’re traveling in a car with other Christians, you have can get real with each other about how you’re doing in life, how you and God are doing, and get input from people who love you.
We went around the car sharing our hearts, and when it came to this friend’s turn, she tearfully started sharing that she just flat out thought she was boring. She saw other people have these amazing passions and hobbies, and although she has a stable job and some fun hobbies herself, she just finds herself totally disconnected from anything she truly loves to do.
When given a Saturday by herself, instead of filling it with things that make her happy and connect her to God and others, she spends it doing productive things or binge-watching reality TV shows. She also struggles with deep friendships, like so many twenty-somethings I know.
The first question I asked her was, “do you feel like you know yourself?” And she immediately answered no.
This lack of a sense of self has been a similar theme in many conversations I have had with my church-going friends – unfortunately, especially those who grew up in the church.
I know it is normal only just to begin to discover who you are in your twenties. But I think there’s a difference between having space for a fun curiosity about who you are and what you love and the deadening of yourself and disconnection from your own person that can happen under society and the church’s pressure.
But thankfully, I believe that taking regular sabbaths is a serious antidote to this widespread disconnection.
Society’s Pressures Lead to Disconnection from Yourself
For most people, when you’re a kid, what you love is what you love. You love dinosaurs or ballet or action figures or baking. And you’re not thinking about if this passion will make you money one day or if people will think it’s a productive use of your time. You’re just free to love it.
But the pressure of needing to make money for yourself and your family one day can kill these passions. And even if you are able to have a stable job and have time for fun things on the weekend, there is pressure to have your hobby still be productive in some way. Almost like, if you’re not good enough at knitting to sell your work on Etsy, you shouldn’t bother. And it’s so hard to make the time for yourself, either way. And unfortunately, the church can make this disconnection worse.
Misinterpretation of God’s Will in the Church Leads to Disconnection, Too
I do believe that the universal church is changing in positive ways and realizing how fear-based it has been. But I see the thumbprints of legalism and a “grind” culture everywhere, especially in my friends who have grown up in the church.
Friends who have grown up being told to fit a specific mold of what a “good” Christian looks like. Who have been told to get advice on every little thing, as if they aren’t capable of thinking for themselves. Who were told to make more time for Bible studies and less time for leisure activities – or somehow find a way to fit them all in and just not sleep.
Who were told they must “deny themselves” to such an extent that it feels like what they want in life doesn’t matter; it’s up to other people to decide for them. Who have been implicitly told to run themselves into the ground “for God” because that’s what a devout Christian does – and lose themselves in the process.
I have a friend who shared that she’s been following the rules of what other people expect from her all of her life, and she’s scared of what she’d find if she really let herself be herself.
I have another friend who found it impossible to make a decision about a man who wanted to marry her because she was so far out of touch with what she really wanted, which comes from who you are. He ended up making the decision for her and moved on. Even though God absolutely worked through this situation to protect her, they both could have been saved from months of heartache if she had known herself and felt safe enough to stand in how she felt about him.
I have yet another friend who is going through an identity crisis. She’s tried so hard to be a good Christian all her life, to do all the right things, all of the expected extracurriculars and to have all of the desired accomplishments that at the end of the day, she has no idea what she does and does not like. She’s unsure if the life she’s living is really what she wants to have signed up for or if she was only doing it because other people told her to.
Again, I think it’s normal to be still discovering your identity when you’re in your twenties, but when the church has a role of telling you who to be, rather than how to find your identity in God, the fruit of that can be devastating.
Because we are made in the image of God, being disconnected from our true selves absolutely has to be a goal of Satan’s.
There Are No Boring People, Only Disconnected Ones
Out of my intense insecurities, I used to be extremely judgmental. I can still struggle with this, of course, but the more I heal myself, the more I look at the people around me and think, “do I really know a single human that isn’t simply extraordinary?”
People are wonderful. We are so funny, so inventive, so bold, so colorful. We have incredible stories of hardship and incredible stories of victory. And I just believe with my whole heart that to be made in God’s image means that we can never, ever be boring.
Like Isaiah 40:28 calls our attention to, “Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.” We know God through his creation. And when you start to fathom even the insane variety of types of fish on this earth, you see that he is a God of color, texture, variety, and grandness – just like us.
So if you are feeling like you are boring or that your life is boring, I beg you to reconsider.
You are divine. The same materials God used to make stardust and amethyst and sunsets are the same materials he used to weave you together in your mother’s womb.
You are not boring. You are just disconnected from your stunning, complex, beautiful authentic self.
Sabbath Brings Our Childlike Passions Back into Play
Much has been written on why we should Sabbath, so I won’t go too much into detail on that, but to me, it’s such a beautiful thing that God helps us to know ourselves through what we love.
When we rest in God’s goodness on sabbaths, we have the freedom and space to think, “what does my heart need today? What does my heart WANT to do today?”
Maybe it’s watching old Audrey Hepburn movies, which has been my favorite sabbath activity lately. Perhaps it’s tinkering around on your motorcycle that’s been sitting in the garage. Maybe it’s something beautiful and “productive” like painting, or maybe it’s not “productive” at all, like playing a video game. All that matters is that it is refreshing to you and connects you to God’s goodness.
When we Sabbath, we get to practice trusting God to the point that it’s safe for our childlike hearts to come alive again and to let them dictate what we do and think about for one whole day every week. Imagine what that kind of narrative could do to our hearts over a lifetime!
My favorite way to think about Sabbath comes from this podcast, where the host shares something that he teaches his kids from a young age: that on Sabbath, “we rest, we play, no work. God loves us.”
The act of resting and playing because you’re enjoying God’s love is profoundly powerful and radical in our society. So if you’re feeling stuck, boring or disconnected, I encourage you to just do something fun for a day. And if it doesn’t feel fun or refreshing, that’s okay. You can give yourself another Sabbath the next week. And the next one.
And I’ll bet before you know it, as you fall back in love with life, you’ll fall back in love with yourself – and most powerfully, fall back in love with the God who created you from his own divine handiwork.
The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of Christian Headlines.
Photo courtesy: ©Unsplash/Ilber Franco
Kelly-Jayne McGlynn is a former editor at Crosswalk.com. She sees the act of expression, whether through writing or art, as a way to co-create with God and experience him deeper. Check out her handmade earring Instagram and Etsy for more of her thoughts on connecting with God through creative endeavors.