Friday, May 4, 2012

Acedia and Me

It's high time for a new post, don't you think?

First, I want to say a big THANK YOU to those who donated to my Team Running Water web page: Katie Gilsdorf, the Brummer family, Sam and Judy Palpant, Lorry Jackson, Brad and Kathy Beal, and my dear sister, Julie Brink. I met my goal of $250!!! If you don't know, Team Running Water is an effort through Partners International to raise money for clean water projects in Africa and Indonesia through Bloomsday, Spokane's annual 10k race. The really cool part, though, is the fact that clean water becomes a means for sharing the Gospel because Christian ministries provide the clean water. If you think about it, pray that God brings Living Water to these communities, not just clean, drinkable water. 

Since I haven't written in a while, I'll just give some highs and lows for the past couple weeks. I swear the weeks alternate in that one week, I'll have something after work every day and the next week, I'll be home every night of the week. I can't decide if this is a good or bad thing. I suppose, in the end, it doesn't really matter. I like to be active, hanging out with people, making meals, etc., but I also like to be home and have the chance to cook and bake and read and walk. It seems to work out.

I'll start with the low. This week I've been hovering on the verge of sick. My throat's been sore at times, but mostly, I've just been really tired. Really tired. Not sure what's going on with my body, but I'm trying to do all the right things: sleep a lot, drink lots of water, gargle with salt water, exercise, etc. But sometimes, maybe, our bodies just need to slooow dooowwwnnnnn.

The other low is that life has been speeding by with such rapidity that I can't reflect and process things in the manner in which I'd like. It's not just having time at home that restores my soul, but also solitude. Solitude is hard to come by in a house with four other girls. I've recently felt like I'm not doing anything well. In other words, mediocrity's been the name of the game. Bleh.

I've been reading this awesome book by Kathleen Norris called "Dakota: A Spiritual Geography." It's a work of creative nonfiction, which is one of my favorite genres of literature. This book is soaked in scriptural language that makes me think long and hard about the state of my mind and my heart. Because I like it so much, I looked on to check out Norris' other books, one of which is called "Acedia and Me." Acedia (ah-k-dee-ah) is an old monastic word (Greek? Latin?) that means a kind of slothfulness or carelessness, the "noonday demon" for monks who become restless with monastic life. Reading the book's description made me wonder if some of my tiredness isn't actually acedia. Why I else would I let the vacuum sit on the floor of my room for three days before vacuuming my 10x10 square-foot room? 

One reviewer summed up the book in this way: "In the end, her remedies for acedia are simple: Go for a walk. Memorize Scripture. Sing Psalms. Seek community. Worship. Shovel manure. Dust a bookshelf. Wash dishes. Study. Read. Write. And be kind to one another."

I love this quote because it made me realize that acedia attacks us physically and spiritually, which Norris must also realize. Her remedies call for hard work: physical labor and intentional community with God and people, but also the hard work of noticing the particulars--walking, reading, writing, and dusting. It's the paying attention that's hard. Acedia would have me slide through life with nary a hard look at the state of my soul or the state of the world around me.

Oh brother. I'm writing myself into obligation. This tends to happen. Perhaps that's why Norris lists writing as an antidote to acedia. You have permission to hold me accountable to looking hard at my soul and the world. And if you share your struggles of acedia with me, I'll do the same.

In "Dakota," Norris has a great quote about hanging up wet laundry on a line. I think it ties into this post rather well: "Hanging up wet clothes gives me time alone under the sky to think, to grieve, and gathering the clean clothes in, smelling the sunlight on them, is victory." I'm praying that our hard work to combat acedia is like smelling the sunlight on dry clothes, a victory.

Well, that would be the natural stopping place, but I promised you a high, too. I think my high would be last Tuesday. My Bible Study leader, Janie, and I took a meal to a hurting family we know. She made Split Pea Soup with the Easter ham bone, and I made fresh French bread. It was victory to see the dough billow in its bowl as it rose and bake to a burnished brown. I wrapped three halves of bread in plastic wrap, put them in a colorful woven basket and walked with the basket up the Back 40 hill, across Whitworth's campus, and down the street to Janie's house.

For some reason, I was agitated as I started the walk, but a couple minutes in, I felt peace and was able to pray and enjoy the outside, the sun, the view of Mt. Spokane, the first wave of spring in the forsythia and flowering trees. The Lord restored my soul and all was peace.

Thanks for reading my thoughts. I love being able to write such meditations. But I think even more what I want to say is this: thanks for listening. God bless you.

1 comment:

  1. This was beautiful, Elizabeth. I obviously haven't been keeping up on my blog reading, as I've only now gotten to this, but it was just what I needed to hear. I all-too-easily give in to Acedia when I think I'm just 'taking time off.' My summer is full of potential, if I let God direct me to take that walk, dust that shelf, and start that research project instead of being apathetic. Thanks for talking me into obligation as well - that's where your writing and my reading meet to help us both be responsible to what God is asking of us. :)