Some of you will be saying – what the heck is that? Acedia(from Latinacedĭa, and from Greekἀκηδία, “negligence”) according to Aquinas, the word describes a state of listlessness, of not caring or not being concerned with one’s position or condition in the world. Other words often connected with it would be – apathy, sleepiness, a state of restlessness and inability either to work or to pray. It is linked with sloth, being one of the seven deadly sins and it can lead to a state of being unable to perform one’s duties in life. Acedia was originally noted as a problem among monks and other ascetics who maintained a solitary life.
I was flipping through a newsfeed the other day and there were so many needs from around the world being shared by so many people. My emotions were pulled this way and that and I found I didn’t know how to respond. It was all too much for me. How many of you have been overwhelmed with information that renders you unable to focus or feel anything about anything?
We can grow weary of too many choices. Deciding on a coffee in Starbucks is a stressful activity! Thinking of life choices is so complex we are tempted to just put them on hold so we don’t have to face making a decision right now. Do you ever get to a point of not caring, feeling that everything seems to take too much energy and perhaps it’s easier to just ignore it all right now? Before you get worried about me, I’m actually fine but the topic of motivation, action and growth has always been a fascinating topic for me.
Are you wanting to grow? How? In what ways? In what category? What has been happening to you in this last month or in the last six months? How have you changed? What are you doing differently in relating more effectively with others now than you did a year ago? How has your relationship with God developed? It’s easier to focus on what we are doing out there, rather than focus on how we are growing on the inside. Are questions like this difficult for you? Do you feel weary thinking about it?
One of the traits in YWAM that is known all around the world, is that we are visionary, called to make God known in every nation and tribe and tongue. We are called to the all’s and every’s. We want to be involved in all the spheres of society and with every generation. There is so much to do, we are so active and energetic and going, going, going, so how on earth could acedia be something to concern ourselves with?
Having spoken with so many leaders over the last few years, I am beginning to get the feeling that we have a problem in YWAM with spiritual acedia. We are becoming overwhelmed with too much vision. Too much to do in focusing on ‘making God known’, and not enough time to ‘To know God’. We can become spiritually dull – it’s not exactly laziness, we are just worn out. We have so many agendas and so many people to relate to, that time with the Lord gets shorter and shorter and it becomes like having a quick cup of coffee with our friend before getting on with the day’s job.
In ‘Lord of the rings’ – Saruman actually possessed King Theoden’s mind and he came under a spell. He couldn’t think, he couldn’t make decisions and was powerless to do anything. We too can come under a kind of spell – where there is no energy, no passion, no desire to move out of our comfort zone to bless another, to do something in the way of serving another. We are in a stupor! We want to get moving, get our joints and muscles engaged but we are paralysed. King Theoden, has the spell broken and he is suddenly alive again. So, what breaks the spell?
We need to come to our senses and decide on what godly priorities we want to establish in our lives. We know in our minds that to be successful in the kingdom of God, we need to spend time with the King of the kingdom. Somehow though, we get our focus on working for the King but not spending time with him. What will it take for you to carve out quality and quantity time to be with the Lord?
A huge challenge we face is dealing with our own rhythms of life. We get used to morning rituals of doing the dishes we left from last night, jumping into emails, getting the kids ready for school if you have some, preparing meetings, thinking about what we need to accomplish, and often creating expectations that are way too high. Or on the other hand, having a much slower start with more sleep, getting up just before the first meeting, shoving some breakfast down and carrying our coffee to the car or into the meeting with you. Both kinds of people are suffering from the same problem – spiritual acedia. A lack of motivation to spend time with the Lord.
If we really love someone we want to spend time with them – don’t we? We have things to talk about, things to do for them and fun activities to enjoy. When I think of spending time with my wife Rite, we have many options – eating meals, listening to each other’s stories, playing games, reading books, going for walks, exploring new places, brainstorming ideas, praying and debriefing and a whole lot more.
The challenge many people face is that they don’t know how to spend time with the Lord – they are unclear of the agenda! What do they talk about? And it’s especially hard if it feels like a one-way conversation where they aren’t experiencing hearing God conversationally in their times with him. Interestingly, we don’t often get insights from people about the details of their time with the Lord. It is somehow one of those private matters. It’s kind of assumed that they have a quiet time in the morning but what they do in it or how it works for them often stays a mystery.
Surveys reveal that a father spends on average under five minutes a day in conversation with a child. It takes thought, initiative and creativity. There have been many writers talking about how much time couples need to spend together to maintain and build their relationship. The same principles apply to friendships.
Experts seem to agree that to maintain and develop a marriage we need at least 30 minutes of interaction every day. The time they are referring to is direct and meaningful conversation and not watching TV together. Then, we need to plan a more extended period each week in addition to that – a date with heart interaction; then an overnight away about 4 times a year and a longer couple’s vacation once a year.
This gives us a framework for thinking about our relationship with God too – a focused 30 minutes/day (of course this is the minimum), an extended time each week, a weekend every 3 months and a couple of weeks of getting away. This will look different for everyone but it’s a guideline.
My wife shared with me two words have been helpful in shaping her devotional life – humilityand intentionality. She said, ‘I picture myself as a grape branch attached firmly to the vine. I cannot live without that connection and in humility I am asking that I would remain in His love relying on his perspective and wisdom all day long. I intentionally keep a listening ear open to His words not only for myself but also for others through conversations that take place. I am seeking to practice his presence as Brother Lawrence experienced.’ We have both begun to make a habit of what we call mini-retreats on the weekend where we spend 3-4 hours with the Lord. It feels like a catching up and debriefing of the week, as well as preparing ourselves for what he has next for us. Add to this, reading spiritually inspiring books together, conversational prayer and attending conferences & courses and the result hopefully is that our grape branches will continue to bear fruit.
Attached to this email is a guide with 7 templates for spending time with God. I attached it to a leadership letter a couple of years ago but thought it would be useful to send again. If you are struggling to know how to vary your time with the Lord, this may come in useful. Bear in mind that some of the suggestions won’t connect with you, so try them all out but decide on what your particular rhythm will look like.
Until next month