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!