Overcoming Soul Weariness


Accidie or acedia is one of those half-way point spiritual pitfalls that we as evangelicals haven’t heard a lot about, but many of us who are a few steps along in the journey recognize. (And where the author talks about “monks” or “monasticism,” I think it works just fine to say “Christians” or “spiritual life.”

“[A] danger [in the monastic rule of stability] is the antsy listlessness called accidie…. A day becomes something to be got through, its demands seemingly endless and equally unappetizing. Anything promising diversion has great appeal, but genuine satisfaction lies always out of reach, with someone else, in doing something else. Evagrius Ponticus, the acute fourth‑century monastic psychologist, described it this way: ‘it seems that the sun hardly moves and that the day is fifty hours long; the monk constantly looks out the window, walks around outside, peers at the sun to figure out how long until dinner time; there arises a dislike for the place, for the monastic life, for work; the monk thinks that love has fled from among the brothers and that there is no one to provide any encouragement.’ Accidie depends on the con that life used to be–or will someday be, or could somewhere else be–better than it is here and now. Not so much melancholy as restlessness, accidie urges its victims to surf the World Wide Web of life in search of illusory fulfilment.

The risk in accidie is that one either abandons monastic life entirely or does so internally by escaping into fantasy as a protection from the demands of commitment and community. Anyone who has been married or has made a similar commitment to a person or a group knows the temptation. Early monastic writers urged hard work as a particularly apt remedy for accidie, joining work, of course, to a battery of reality therapies designed to counteract the allure of fantasy and self-deception. Work was not an escape from painful experiences but one aspect of healthy living. Work at that time was simple and manual, with clear and immediate results. The prescription of work as a cure for accidie is somewhat trickier today, when work is often neither simple nor immediately productive. Work can become an escape from accidie rather than a cure. Benedict prescribes service of one another, mutual obedience, work, spiritual guidance and annual renewal in Lent as ways to keep monastic life grounded in the freshness of each moment.” (Stewart, Columba. Prayer and Community: The Benedictine Tradition. Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 1998, p. 76-77.)

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Overcoming Soul Weariness


Accidie or acedia is one of those half-way point spiritual pitfalls that we as evangelicals haven’t heard a lot about, but many of us who are a few steps along in the journey recognize. (And where the author talks about “monks” or “monasticism,” I think it works just fine to say “Christians” or “spiritual life.”

“[A] danger [in the monastic rule of stability] is the antsy listlessness called accidie…. A day becomes something to be got through, its demands seemingly endless and equally unappetizing. Anything promising diversion has great appeal, but genuine satisfaction lies always out of reach, with someone else, in doing something else. Evagrius Ponticus, the acute fourth‑century monastic psychologist, described it this way: ‘it seems that the sun hardly moves and that the day is fifty hours long; the monk constantly looks out the window, walks around outside, peers at the sun to figure out how long until dinner time; there arises a dislike for the place, for the monastic life, for work; the monk thinks that love has fled from among the brothers and that there is no one to provide any encouragement.’ Accidie depends on the con that life used to be–or will someday be, or could somewhere else be–better than it is here and now. Not so much melancholy as restlessness, accidie urges its victims to surf the World Wide Web of life in search of illusory fulfilment.

The risk in accidie is that one either abandons monastic life entirely or does so internally by escaping into fantasy as a protection from the demands of commitment and community. Anyone who has been married or has made a similar commitment to a person or a group knows the temptation. Early monastic writers urged hard work as a particularly apt remedy for accidie, joining work, of course, to a battery of reality therapies designed to counteract the allure of fantasy and self-deception. Work was not an escape from painful experiences but one aspect of healthy living. Work at that time was simple and manual, with clear and immediate results. The prescription of work as a cure for accidie is somewhat trickier today, when work is often neither simple nor immediately productive. Work can become an escape from accidie rather than a cure. Benedict prescribes service of one another, mutual obedience, work, spiritual guidance and annual renewal in Lent as ways to keep monastic life grounded in the freshness of each moment.” (Stewart, Columba. Prayer and Community: The Benedictine Tradition. Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 1998, p. 76-77.)

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(Repost from June 2011)

Acedia: Soul-Weariness in the Midst of the Journey


Yesterday, I posted some thoughts on the classic spiritual problem of acedia. I have a few further reflections to share today.

There is a connection between acedia and the way that desire underlies discipline. Acedia is a loss of holy desire that energizes the practices by which I make open space and unhurried time in my life to notice the real presence of God. He is always with me. I don’t always remain aware of this most basic of spiritual facts. I behave too often as though God weren’t present, or were so distant as to make His presence irrelevant.

Acedia is that spiritual malaise in which I find disciplines boring and not worth my time. It is a loss of a more eternal perspective in which I recognize I am living eternal life now. If I live each moment in the light of eternal life, I can remain unhurried and profoundly engaged.

Acedia is a kind of spiritual boredom that tempts me to escape my responsibilities and, for that matter, responsiveness to God. It is “I-don’t-feel-like-it”-it is; an inflamation of unholy indifference.

At its simplest, the opposite of acedia is love–active, sincere, engaged concern for others and devotion to Christ. It is in the halfway places that I lose track of this priority. If I let my thoughts wander, the sharpness of holy concern is dulled by lust, envy, greed or other unholy inward impulses

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This does not add to the cost of your order, but provides a referral fee to this ministry

Overcoming Soul Weariness


Accidie or acedia is one of those half-way point spiritual pitfalls that we as evangelicals haven’t heard a lot about, but many of us who are a few steps along in the journey recognize. (And where the author talks about “monks” or “monasticism,” I think it works just fine to say “Christians” or “spiritual life.”

“[A] danger [in the monastic rule of stability] is the antsy listlessness called accidie…. A day becomes something to be got through, its demands seemingly endless and equally unappetizing. Anything promising diversion has great appeal, but genuine satisfaction lies always out of reach, with someone else, in doing something else. Evagrius Ponticus, the acute fourth‑century monastic psychologist, described it this way: ‘it seems that the sun hardly moves and that the day is fifty hours long; the monk constantly looks out the window, walks around outside, peers at the sun to figure out how long until dinner time; there arises a dislike for the place, for the monastic life, for work; the monk thinks that love has fled from among the brothers and that there is no one to provide any encouragement.’ Accidie depends on the con that life used to be–or will someday be, or could somewhere else be–better than it is here and now. Not so much melancholy as restlessness, accidie urges its victims to surf the World Wide Web of life in search of illusory fulfilment.

The risk in accidie is that one either abandons monastic life entirely or does so internally by escaping into fantasy as a protection from the demands of commitment and community. Anyone who has been married or has made a similar commitment to a person or a group knows the temptation. Early monastic writers urged hard work as a particularly apt remedy for accidie, joining work, of course, to a battery of reality therapies designed to counteract the allure of fantasy and self-deception. Work was not an escape from painful experiences but one aspect of healthy living. Work at that time was simple and manual, with clear and immediate results. The prescription of work as a cure for accidie is somewhat trickier today, when work is often neither simple nor immediately productive. Work can become an escape from accidie rather than a cure. Benedict prescribes service of one another, mutual obedience, work, spiritual guidance and annual renewal in Lent as ways to keep monastic life grounded in the freshness of each moment.” (Stewart, Columba. Prayer and Community: The Benedictine Tradition. Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 1998, p. 76-77.)

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A Good Word: Burnout as Opportunity


In the Dominican Republic, a woman crushes roasted coffee beans in a home-made mortar and pestles

“Many people have burned out in ministries of service and social action precisely because they have been worshiping their own activity instead of God. In such instances, burnout can be a blessed time that perhaps should not be forestalled. Like the rock bottom for the substance addict, burnout for the action addict is sometimes the only way he or she can come to know the difference between the means and the end, between good deeds and God.” (Gerald May. The Awakened Heart. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1991, p. 189.)

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Looking Back: Least Rested Nation in the World


Image of a pack burro in the Dominican Republic. (Taken by gemhelen.com)

I’ve noticed an increase of Google searches for “burnout” landing on my blog page, Ministry Burnout Statistics.” (There were 25 Friday alone). I feel for pastors and other ministry leaders who are coming to their end of their year and the end of their rope in the same moment.

Part of the reason I’m working on my writing project, Unhurried Time, is because I believe that a good part of our problem is that we have unrealistic ideas about the pace of life involved in walking with and working with Jesus. He was never in a hurry, no matter how many needs or opportunities were before Him. And we are His followers. Shouldn’t that make a difference in our lives?

A while back, I posted a link to an MSNBC article that pointed out that the United States is the world’s least rested nation in that we take least advantage of whatever vacation time is provided us. It deserves a revisit:

CLICK for “Least Rested Nation in the World”

 

A Good Word: Causes of Pastoral Burnout


“The problem of pastoral burnout is an important concern today in ministry studies. It can be defined as vocational exhaustion, the depletion of resources to fulfill one’s responsibilities. Pastoral burnout can be faced honestly and remedial action take, or it can be like a hidden cancer among the ordained. When admitted it is a form of battle wound, when hidden it becomes a form of acedia that manifests itself in insulation and evasion.

The sin that leads to pastoral burnout is like a two-edged sword–it cuts two ways. What gets the pastor into the problem is the temptation to evade his or her own spiritual emptiness by becoming as busy as possible…” (Holmes, Urban T. Spirituality for Ministry. San Francisco: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1982, p. 47.)

(Note: Acedia is one of the classic seven deadly sins/thoughts first outlined by the desert fathers in the fourth century. It is a kind of spiritual listlessness, apathy, hopelessness and an “I-just-don’t-care-anymore” condition)

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Recent Most-Visited Posts


If you aren’t a daily reader, or in case you’d like to revisit a post that a number of others have appreciated, here are the most-visited posts of the last 30 days. (This doesn’t include the two pages that are always most visited: “Retreats”, which lists retreat centers in Southern California, and “Ministry Burnout Statistics”.)

  • I Need Your Feedback” – Many of you were kind enough to take a moment to let me know how you use this blog and how often you read. If you didn’t get a chance yet to do so, I’d still appreciate your input.
  • What Do We Expect From Prayer” – In the last month, I’ve preached or led retreats with Ephesians 3:16-19 as the core passage. This blog post was my reflective imagining of what it might look like if this prayer was deeply answered in our lives and in our communities of faith.
  • Burnout Stats: Physical Health of Pastor” – Here I shared some statistics about the pastor health.
  • Misguided Humility and Prayer” – I reflected a bit on a word of counsel from Teresa of Avila about the temptation to quit prayers out of a sense of unworthiness or failure.
  • A Good Word: What is Intimacy?” – I shared a couple of quotations from Spiritual Wholeness for Clergy on the theme of true intimacy.
  • Some New Toys for My Library” – I shared a list of books I picked up at the Fuller Bookstore on my latest visit to campus to lecture in a class there. I’ve read many of them now. Good stuff!

Looking Back: Emptied to be Filled


I’m writing this on Sunday morning as I prepare to preach at Crossway Church in Santa Ana, CA. I’m speaking on “Why Missions Matter for Every Christ-Follower” out of Ezekiel 47:1-12. Gem is with friends in Cambria. Sean is in San Francisco for a class conference. Bryan, Christopher and I are holding down the fort.

For the blog this morning, I found a couple of past posts from a late-eighteenth century French spiritual director, Jean Grou. He talks in practical terms about how we must be emptied before we can be filled, and how that may work in our lives.

Read more of “Emptied to be Filled”
Part One :: Part Two :: Part Three :: Part Four :: Part Five

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A Good Word: No Life Without Passion


I came across this in my journal from a while back:

“…life without passion is no life at all. The sober truth is that there is no new life without passion. No baby was ever conceived without passion; no great poem was ever produced without passion; no great piece of music was ever composed without passion. Passion is what takes us beyond the superficiality of life to a deep and wonderful glow in which we learn to care.” (Elton Trueblood. “The Courage to Care.” The Yoke of Christ and Other Sermons. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1958, p. 78.)

How is God tending and stirring your passion for Him at this stage of your journey? What moves you? What touches you? What makes you laugh or cry?

(I’d be grateful for your prayers today as I give my “Much More Fruitful” presentation today at Fuller Seminary in Julie Gorman’s “Adult Spiritual Formation” class. Always a treat. I’ve been doing this now for seventeen years, I think. Yikes!)