The Noonday Demon
September 30, 2008
Once in awhile it seems God prompts individuals to work on the same lack at the same time. We can witness it unfolding today.
Kathleen Norris recently published a new book entitled, Acedia and Me. I learned that Richard Foster is working on a book on sloth, a close kin to acedia. Then my cabinet at the seminary chose to read a book together (something we do consistently) called, The Saints Guide to Happiness, by Robert Ellsberg. Chapter 4 focuses on "Learning to Sit Still." In the chapter Ellsberg deals with "acedia."
A fourth century monk, Evagrius Ponticus, first labeled "acedia" as the noonday demon. It is a restless depression that creeps into life, leaving an attitude of not caring about anything or anyone. You may be quite active, but no God-shaped joy results.
At our spiritual emphasis retreat, we took an hour and a half to sit quietly and journal. We also spent twenty minutes practicing "hesychastic" prayer, resting in prayer in the present moment with Jesus.
What is God saying about the rush of the present moment that forces us to think only in terms of the past or the future? Only God is able to handle all of time. Unfortunately, we fail to live fully in the present moment.
When I still surfed and was an active waterman, one of the most marvelous treats I experienced came not on the surface where the waves were breaking, but under the waves. Paddling out into great surf, you would need to dive under the foam of a wave that had already broken. Above you would be the energy of the wave, visible in bubbles and white water spiraling past, perhaps even slamming into your back, but in the deeper water, calm. Snorkeling produced the same contrast. Active water on the surface gave way to quiet, calm, and dark peaceful water in the depths.
To anchor our lives in the present moment we need to produce deep, quiet stability in the inner person. It is there that we will renew ourselves with God's perspectives on life, business, ministry, family. The psalmist said it well: "Be still, and know that I am God" (Psalm 46:10).
And I can recommend the books above as helps on the journey.