For the Distracted
Here's a winning Scrabble word - "Acedia". It's in your dictionary, but not a word we use every day. None the less, it is something we see every day. I was preaching through the "Seven Deadly Sins” when I first encountered the word. Acedia is listed as one of the seven, but is translated as “sloth.” So I thought it would be an easy sermon about laziness. My sermon got demolished by a Latin dictionary. It seems that acedia is not really about laziness but about something far worse.
Acedia means "not caring.” So while it can refer to laziness, it is more about disinterest, distraction, dalliance with anything else but our primary duty of the moment. It’s an office manager who should be working, but stares at birds zig zagging across fluffy clouds. He spends time in the break room debating last night’s TV program. He toys with gadgets on his desk and looks down the long hallway of his future. He gets agitated to think that he should be somewhere else doing something else. While grateful for the work granted, his daydreams are a resistance to the time and place God has for him. He is in the midst of acedia - he does not care.
Preaching on laziness would be easy, but this acedia stuff is different. It has so infused our society that we have trouble seeing it as a concern. We are a culture of escapists. We entertain ourselves lest we fall into boredom. We buy lottery tickets not just from greed but as day dreams - the freedom to go somewhere and do something else. We are sure that life would be better in another place or time. If we had a different job, a new spouse, exciting surroundings or exotic retirement, then our restlessness would go away. We jump to the future with our grandiose schemes or find comfort in the past with our nostalgia. The place we struggle with is here. The time that we resist is now.
Of course, all anyone can touch, is the here and now. The only time that God gives me to live in, is this moment. If I can't live well in this moment, I have no other moment in which to live. And yes, to avoid what God has for me here and now, is a form of laziness. It is a distraction that leads us away from fulfillment and down blind alleys of adventure. In her book Acedia and Me, Kathleen Norris reminds us that acedia is a thief. It plunders my "now" with the enticement of anything else. So I must guard myself with the diligence of one day at a time. I should focus my discipline on doing what is at hand. I ought to cultivate contentment with what is and live in the hope that there is grace enough in the here and now. I will find rich delight in the present. That's better than winning a Scrabble game.