I learned a new word this week as I was reading a daily devotional that I receive via email on my computer each weekday. The writer quoted another author, Kathleen Norris, who has written a book entitled Acedia and Me: A Marriage, Monks, and a Writer's Life. I had to look up acedia to ensure that I understood it correctly. The dictionary defines it as spiritual sloth, or laziness and indifference in religious matters. A quote from Norris’ book stirred my thoughts even further when she writes:
"It is indeed apathy's world when we have so many choices that we grow indifferent to them even as we hunger for still more novelty. We discard real relationships in favor of virtual ones and scarcely notice that being overly concerned with the thread count of cotton sheets and the exotic ingredients of gourmet meals can render us less able to care about those who scrounge for food and have no bed but the streets."
The quote in turn brought to mind the title of a book I’m currently reading—Adventures in Missing the Point. The constant pursuit of the new and innovative and the deluge of choices that we face daily can certainly cause us to miss what matters most. Norris’ statement about discarding face-to-face relationships with people in our quest to expand our list of “virtual friends” via Facebook and other social networks is convicting. So, too, are her comments about getting hung up on dietary labels of food packages when we’re surrounded by folks who are hungry and homeless.
We can’t meet all of the world’s needs, nor solve all of the crises that arise, but by the grace of God we can do our part to make a difference and alleviate the suffering of others. We need to take our cue from the Lord Himself who seeing the multitudes as distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd, was moved with compassion for them. Let’s resolve not to let acedia win the battle.