The crazy thing is I love my work. But there’s something about what I’ve been calling “the infinite abyss of adulthood” that gets me all turned in on myself every time the week starts anew, the day comes up for air, and the next project begins. I wasn’t until I read Kathleen Norris’s The Cloister Walk that I realized there was a word for my spiritual malaise. It’s what the church fathers and mothers referred to as acedia, a sort of listlessness of the spirit. Norris also attributes this feeling of time’s expanse to our ”noonday demons.” The sun is high and a warm meal, glass of wine, and good night’s spoon is far off. The road of perseverance appears long and boring and repetitive under the deadpan heat.
I recently heard a prominent theologian suggest that such repetition actually brings God delight. Richard Mouw, President of Fuller Theological Seminary, gave the opening lectures at Duke’s Pastor’s School last Monday. His first speech was relatively early in the morning; my eyes were still chapped from the airplane I had de-boarded at midnight. Still, his grandfatherly tone was enough to quell any Monday heebie-jeebies.
He began by talking about God’s delight in creation when s/he said at the beginning of time that it was good, we were good. Delight seemed a soft word that proved hard for any adult in the audience to take seriously. But watch a child, Mouw said. They know something of God’s delight. He told the story of his grandson who loves to see his old ‘pa make funny faces. He obliges and the little boy claps and spits with glee. “Do it again!” he screams. The face becomes contorted once more, with a little more effort this time, a little more show. The clapping is now accompanied by uproariously laughter and the command to “Do it again!” Grandfather eventually tires of the game and tries to divert his grandson’s attention to something (or someone) else. But he is delighted, and unquenchably so.
This, Mouw suggested, is something of the delight God takes in us, in our waking, our breakfast-making, our laboring, our playing, and evening-praying. S/he says, “That’s good. Do it again.”
Rise up to meet the day. That’s good. Do it again.
Empty the dishwasher even if it’s his job. That’s good. Do it again.
Forgive that friend who keeps wronging with you with missed appointments and eerie silences. That’s good. Do it again.
Forgive yourself for being too sensitive, too talkative, too reserved, too pushy, too much. That’s good. Do it again.
Put down the paper (and your bacon jam) and go to church on Sunday morning. That’s good. Do it again.
Point out the language in the liturgy that oppresses, excludes, and obscures. That’s good. Do it again.
Buy someone a meal or a drink or a bus ticket. That’s good. Do it again.
Open your mouth to pray even if words don’t come out and words don’t come in. That’s good. Do it again.
Go to work. Share your work. Rest from work. That’s good. Do it again.
One of my favorite quotes on writing comes from feminist Gloria Steinem who says, “I do not like to write. I like to have written.” It’s the same for Mondays, for life. I do not like to persevere. But I sure do like the delight, my delight and God’s too, I suppose, of having persevered straight through noon and into the softness of dusk.
Erin Lane is a freelance communication strategist for faith-based authors and organizations. She received her Masters in Theological Studies from Duke Divinity School with a focus in gender, ministry, and theology. Confirmed Catholic, raised Charismatic, and married to a Methodist, she blogs about the intersection of her faith and feminism at www.holyhellions.com. She is also co-editing an upcoming anthology on the taboos experienced by young American Christian women. She lives in Durham, NC.