Friday is for Friends

Norris2.jpgThe first section of chp 7 in Kathleen Norris’  Acedia & Me: A Marriage, Monks, and a Writer’s Life
is relentlessly profound. Today I want to clip a few lines of hers about human nature and apathy (acedia) and ask for your response.

“If the Church has made too much of the sin of pride, which seduces us
into thinking too highly of ourselves, it has not made enough of the
sin of sloth, which allows us to settle for being less than we can be,
both as individuals and as a society” (113).

Not achieving what God has called us to do — a sin of omission — assaults the gravity of being made as Eikons of God.

“Many people who would not dream of relying on the understanding of literature or the sciences they acquired as children are content to leave their juvenile theological convictions largely unexamined” (114).

My comment: many choose, out of acedia, to dwell in perpetual spiritual adolescence.

“… the more that society’s ills surface in such evil ways, the less we are able, it seems, to detect any evil within ourselves, let alone work effectively to fix what is wrong” (115).

” ‘I can’t pray that,’ I have heard pastors say of the cursing psalms, or the confessional ones, which admit to loving lies more than truth, to resenting others or desiring revenge. We’re not like that. We’re good people,” these folks say of themselves, “or good enough, having willed away the prejudice, tribalism, and violence in our hearts. We are at a loss to explain their presence in the world around us” (117).

I wonder aloud here: Is our incredulity about racism perhaps an indicator of our own self-righteousness?

Sorry to be so sober with friends. We need these words.

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  • Scot I liked the old look better! Oh well, guess I have to get used to some change.

  • Eileen

    Do we really want to know the levels we will go to in order not to live a “With-God” life?

  • About sloth, I think it depends on your cultural background. I know Koreans who will, quite literally, work themselves to death. There needs to be a balance

  • Your Name

    It almost seems the sin of sloth is a flipside response to the sin of pride as it’s being presented here. If we are not motivated by self promotion in some way, our motivation to seriously engage kicks in and we become lazy and indifferent. And sometimes we see the most activity going on in churches where we are as invested in promoting ourselves and our agenda rather than Christ and his glory. I confess to walk in humility AND be fully engaged as a following disciples of Jesus and for his kingdom is difficult. We must receive the Grace to “will and do his good pleasure” in a world that desperately needs us.

  • Dana Ames

    “Lying to ourselves is more deeply ingrained than lying to others.”
    -Fyodor Dostoyevsky
    If I think of all inside me that still wants to lie, that still wants others to come to harm, I can pray the “cursing psalms” about myself. Not that I want all that terrible stuff to happen to me, but a) that I realize I’m no better than those who wrote them, b) that I am so grateful for God’s mercy and life, and c) that God and I both want better for me, and that is the goal toward which we are both working.
    I do have trouble getting off my duff and moving, though.

  • Tom Rorem

    It is hard to make a balance between accepting grace and accepting growth. It seems that the pursuit of greatness is a path that many fear because it forces one to not be content with who they are and in turn provides a situation in which grace is not understood or received. On the other hand, to simply be content with oneself by accepting a belief that God takes us as we are cheapens our ability to fully embrace who we are made to be. This in turn can distort the call that God places on us.

  • Rebeccat

    Hmmmmm.. . this brings to mind Irenaeus’s idea that “the glory of God is man fully alive”. I think we often have it backwards when it comes to humility and pride. Denying our own status as image bearers, downplaying our gifts and generally denigrating ourselves is not humility, but a grievous insult to God who made us, died and rose for us and delights in us. Real humility comes from realizing that the source of our glory is God and not ourselves. Then our glory can glorify God. But denying it out of sloth and false humility is not Godly in the least. Yet the church seems to be very good at enforcing this false humility.

  • Nathan

    I guess the real question is…
    What do we expect when we make the bedrock of our spirituality the maxim that “there is nothing we can do”?
    It seems that that preceding commitment destroys “spiritual initiative” to cooperate with the life of God.

  • Daryl

    Hmmm… posting a comment about sloth four days later than the initial blog. I was away from the computer all weekend and very Thankful.
    It was interesting to read this chapter in conjunction with my other current reading, Miroslav Volf’s “Exclusion and Embrace.” Scot’s comment about racism struck a chord with me, and the observation Norris makes could easily have fit into Volf’s work. Volf spends quite a bit of time discussing our ability to think of the Other as barbarians, uncivilized, savages, etc., all the while separating ourselves from their sin and destructiveness. Perhaps our incredulity at racism is fed by creating an image of racists that is obviously Other so that we don’t get lumped in with it, and then we shudder when a chink in our armor is highlighted.