Thursday, May 10, 2007

Overcoming Acedia

Kathleen Norris brilliantly described the spiritual malaise known to the ancient church fathers as "acedia" in her book The Cloister Walk. She says that today this state is most often described as despression, but acedia is not the same thing as depression. Kevin Quast, writing for Christian week, says "Acedia is a spiritual languor. We experience it as apathy, boredom or inertia in one’s discipleship."

For the last couple of years, I've experienced some of the symptoms of acedia. That's not unusual--our journey in faith is full of both peaks and valleys. One of the great blessings both El Jefe and I have found in our new church is that we are being pulled out of that acedia.

The latest antidote to this condition for me was the surprise invitation to become a small group leader in Bible Study Discussion. "BSD" is described at MDPC as "Bible Study Fellowship with grace and mercy." Bible Study Fellowship is an interdenominational Bible study group that is very active in the Houston area and has very strict attendance and participation requirements.

The curriculum for BSD is different than that used for BSF. I began attending a group this March at church and found that it was more compatible with Presbyterian and other mainline Protestant viewpoints than BSF: conservative but not leaning toward fundamentalism. I loved the fact that the lecturer cited Eugene Peterson and Calvin in her remarks.

Like BSF, BSD is interdenominational. It is a mission of our church. I've been told that 60% of the participants are not members of MDPC. That's amazing! BSD has several hundred participants that meet at different times during the week and although most are women's groups there are some coed groups as well. People drive from all over the Houston metro area to attend.

When I was asked to be a leader, I prayed about it and felt that this was the way I was being called to use my spiritual gifts in mission to others. Today I went to a leaders' meeting for the coming year. What a pleasure to be part of a well-run group that has structure but is also flexible when necessary! Without exception the other leaders were warm and genuine in their welcome to us "newbies" and their joyful spirit is infectious. I'm really looking forward to growing spiritually in different ways. Our study for next year is Hebrews, a book that I have never studied in depth.

Praise God, the acedia is receding and the spiritual mojo level is coming up!


jean said...

Hebrews is an amazing book. I have taught it a couple times in Sunday School class and Bible Study. There are great depths in Hebrews.

Gannet Girl said...

This sounds wonderful -- you will be a perfect match and the experience is unlikely to leave much room or time for acedia. I'm not surprised that it was only a matter of a few weeks before you were asked to become a leader.

Of course, I would quibble with "conservative" as being compatible with "Prebyterian". . . . but then we need things to talk about when we meet at that wine bar, don't we!?

annie said...

Hebrews! That will be a good one to study!

Thanks for sharing about the concept of acedia, and the link to the Christian Week article. It was a bit convicting for me.

Presbyterian Gal said...

What an apt word acedia is.

I wish I could attend your study. It sounds like it will be really interesting with different viewpoints chiming in.

Purechristianithink said...

I think you will be wonderful at this. I also ran afoul of BSF's strict rules for VISITORS the one time I attended at a friend's invitation. To my mind banishing late-arriving visitors to the back of the sanctuary to stare at the wall for half an hour isn't a great hospitality practice. I never went back.

Lorna (see through faith) said...

erm no comments for the FF :(

sassy answers there :) made me laugh at least :)

Quotidian Grace said...

Ooops. Thanks, Lorna. Comments are enabled now.

Anonymous said...

Yep, Hebrews is a favorite of mine, too.

I was in BSF for 10 years and loved every minute of it. I learned a HUGE amount about the Bible, made some of my closest friends there and, still go back to my notes periodically for reference. During that time, I preferred the enviornment of a more academic style of study. I loved being w/women of many different denominations studying together. The BSF distinctives didn't bother me...probably because I was in the military for eight years and didn't mind the disciplined rigor of that type of study...

That said, to each her own...Go where you are comfortable and will learn best.

QG, your BSD study sounds a bit like Community Bible Study(CBS)...