Entries tagged with “acedia”.


Here at this old house, we continue to live “singing the songs in between,” waiting for next steps to be revealed. It is an exciting time but it can also be a stressful time, waiting, as Nouwen describes, in the same way a woman waits to give birth: active, living life as opposed to the waiting one does when standing at a bus stop.

The other day, I was reminded of the sin of acedia, or sloth as is it called sometimes in lists of the Seven Deadly Sins. While sloth, or laziness, is somewhat of an accurate synonym, it doesn’t convey the full ennui implied by the more ancient word. Acedia, in addition to laziness, has the more sinister layer of “not caring” associated with it. It is the sin associated with the noonday demons in the classical description of the Seven Deadly Sins. It implies the heat of the day, a lack of being either “hot or cold,” and walking a slogging path that requires us to discipline our spirits to continue on the path of focused and intentional spiritual practices but a path we resist doing. It is the opposite of the spiritual discipline of submission in which we “fight the good fight” whether we feel like it or not.

Seeing the word, acedia, got me to wondering about what the difference is between it and “waiting on the Lord.” Regular readers of this blog know that I have been in a time period where all that I had been formally doing has ended and I am standing in a threshhold between the “what was” and the “not-yet-revealed.”

So how do I know if I am bogged down in acedia or waiting patiently for God lead? By the fruit each produces.

If I am more loving, patient, grateful, content, joyful, kind, then I am waiting patiently on the Lord to act, going about my days in peace and quietness, trusting that the next steps will be revealed at the right time.

If I am restless, crabby, feeling entitled, impatient, eating out of stress, not wanting to do my daily devotions or exercise walks, angry, and/or bitter, then I am probably beset by the sin of acedia.

Often times, we can’t discern these things by ourselves. We need a spiritual director or friend to help us see how we are really behaving. We can ask those closest to us how they see us and then humbly wait for their answer, which may not be to our liking.

None of us raised in a First World culture where everything happens instantly like to wait but if we can focus on the fruit of our thoughts, words, and deed during these “nothing is happening” periods in our lives, we will eventually discover that actually a lot was happening, deep in our souls, through the mysterious work of God’s Holy Spirit turning up the soil in preparation for new seeds to grow.

Our call is to be faithful and to keep being intentional and focused on what we do know from the Light while we wait and hold God’s hand in the dark.

May we all encourage one another to be faithful!

 

Here we are deep into Lent. I don’t know about you but I have a love/hate relationship with the disciplines of Lent. For me, they are like New Year’s resolutions: easy to talk about and plan for, hard to keep.

This year, I tried to listen even more carefully to what God was calling me to for 40 days. I got out my new project pad from Staples and wrote: Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving on the left side. This was going to be an official spiritual project! I was going to get it right this time. Across from the subheadings, the three disciplines of Lent, I listed one or two things to do or not do. Joy and gratitude were going to mark my time. This year, I was going to balance giving up with adding in.

Well, here we are deep into Lent and all hell has broken loose. That is one of those few sayings that always seemed like swearing to me and, yet, I have come to realize is very theologically accurate. Hell breaks loose. Relationships, work projects, health and finances, every aspect of our life becomes susceptible to temptation from the lying master of hell, Satan.

Studying the spiritual disciplines and the writings of the Desert Fathers and Mothers led me to believe that any time the going was really tough, the Dark Night of the Soul was happening. The Dark Night is when we feel closest to Jesus’ cry from the cross, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” It has even become popular to comfort struggling friends with Dark Night of the Soul noises and pats on the back. But I have come to learn that this Dark Night (a “done in secret” cleansing) is happening in all Christ-followers all of the time. It is simply and profoundly that deep work God is always doing in our souls. At times, that deep work floats to the surface of our awareness, bringing a sense of heaviness and spiritual dryness. It is like being aware of muscles we didn’t know we had after a particularly strenuous day of yard work. Those muscles have always been there and we do use them, just not at that depth.

This Lent, God has showed me that the Dark Night of the Soul is really what mature Christians experience. Me? I am fighting acedia, one of the seven deadly sins, that means sloth or laziness. This is not the laziness that reminds one of a long summer afternoon in a hammock or a mild procrastination regarding cleaning the bathroom. This is the prideful rebellion that says to God, in pouting tones, I don’t want to struggle for Christ-likeness. (Cue: stamping foot.) This hard time is the hand of God on a rebellious spirit. While it is the loving hand of a parent on a child in a full-blown temper tantrum, it has only served to ramp up my tantrum, not soothe it.

All hell has broken loose and I am tired of it, stamping my foot at God, pouting that I am not on a smooth and charmed path of “victorious Christian living.” I want to follow Christ, but as sheep follow a Good Shepherd, not as a fellow cross-hanger. I do not want to make the effort to truly turn over to God my pride, my sinful passions, my desire to have it my way. I want to carry my cross on a gold chain.

Acedia does not sound as romantic as the Dark Night of the Soul. Being called spiritually lazy does not make me feel good about myself. My project list for Lent was actually a form of acedia, things to do to make me feel virtuous, as I was too slothful to tackle the bigger sins of pride, arrogance, and narcissistic tendencies.

Yet, there is hope. I am reminded of the sermon by St. John Chrysostom (347-407) preached in every Orthodox Church at Easter. He reminds all of us that everything is from a loving God always at work in us: Conscientious and lazy, celebrate the day! You who have kept the fast, and you who have not, rejoice, this day, for the table is bountifully spread!

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus, come.

 

Follow the tour— While there are only a couple more to post on the tour, here is where we have been if you want to go back and read ones you missed.

February 20th

Rachel Stone: http://eatwithjoy.org/2012/02/20/lenten-fasting-easter-feasting/

February 27th

Margot Starbuck: http://margotstarbuck.blogspot.com/2012/02/being-formed-in-grocery-checkout-line.html

March 5th

Brent Bill: http://holyordinary.blogspot.com/2012/03/time-is-fulfilled-lenten-meditation.html

March 12th

Logan Mehl-Laituri: http://feraltheology.wordpress.com/2012/03/10/maximilian-tebessa-lenten-abstinence/

March 19th

Andrew Byers: http://abyers.wordpress.com/2012/03/19/when-salvation-hurts/

March 26th

Valerie Hess: http://www.valeriehess.com/generalnews/spiritual-warfare-or-spiritual-laziness

April 2nd

Beth Booram: http://peregrinejourney.blogspot.com

April 6th; Good Friday

Chad Young: www.findingauthenticchristianity.com