photo © 2007 ezioman | more info (via: Wylio)Your home begins at the front door (or yard, etc). The second your foot steps inside, you are in the home that you have made for you and your family. What kind of home are you making? What atmosphere do you welcome your husband (or wife) into each and every day? Is it peaceful? Christ-centered? Intentional? Vibrant? Curious? Safe? Honest? Encouraging growth? Work and play in harmony?
In Wholehearted Homemaking, Part One: Confessions, I talked about how I am not currently being the best version of myself as a wife and homemaker. Writing that post was cathartic for me, and today I am ready to tackle this problem head-on. I know that I have so much more potential than what I am now living out in my every day.
The book that I referenced has continued to give insight into the reasons behind this issue (at least for me). I know that this might resonate more with some of my readers than others, but truthfully I do believe that the issues that I cover here are applicable to everyone, at some point in their lives.
Norris writes, “The word “acedia” is not much in use these days – the American Heritage Dictionary defines it as “spiritual torpor or apathy; ennui”- but I wonder if much of the frantic boredom and enervating depression that constitute an epidemic in modern life are not merely the ancient demon of acedia in contemporary dress. Although acedia was long thought to be the province of monastics alone, plaguing them because of the lack of distraction in their daily lives, I believe that the description of acedia given by the fourth-century monk Evagrius is as relevant to us in twentieth-century America as when it was written. He states that the bad thought, or demon, of acedia “makes it seem that the sun hardly moves, if at all, and that the day is fifty hours long. Then [it] constrains the monk to look constantly out the windows, to walk outside the cell, to gaze carefully at the sun to determine how far it stands from the ninth hour” [i.e. lunchtime].” (pg.6-7, emphasis mine)
Oh how embarrassing it is to admit that in my days my eyes so often glance over at the clock, wishing time might move just a little faster until Daddy gets home, until it’s supper time, until bath time is over, the kids are (finally) asleep… so that I might flop on the couch in a few moments of quiet, only to go to bed, and awake the next morning to the exact. same. thing. It is to my great shame that I experience these feelings at all – for I *know* what a blessing it is to have these precious and wild little lives that call me mama. I *know* that it is a priceless gift, and that the years really do flit away so quickly (even if the days crawl on). This is the demon of acedia – to give in to an attitude of listlessness, and ultimately laziness and slothfulness (one of the seven deadly sins in scripture).
So often I hear such intense discontent and restlessness coming from the mama crowd (myself included!). We do playgroups and Bible studies, play dates, walks to the park and walks around town. None of these things are bad, of course. But I wonder about the motivation… is it to get-out-of-the-house-or-mom’s-gonna-go-nuts? The occasional bad day aside… why do we do often feel that desire to escape? Why the listlessness and discontent? It is certainly somewhere that all of us have been from time to time… but I see so many mamas struggle to find joy in their every day role at home.
Acedia shows itself in physical, psychological, and spiritual symptoms. It is associated with fatigue and lethargy, and even fever and pain. Often one experiences boredom, and a lack of attention or desire to prayer and reading, and an overall dissatisfaction with life. The result is either laziness, or, conversely pushing oneself too hard. Neither are good.
Norris continues, “Once the monk has given in to these outward distractions, the thought of acedia moves inward, and it “instills in the heart of the monk a hatred for the place, a hatred for his very life itself.” He begins to think less of the other monks- we might translate this as our family, coworkers or neighbours- brooding on the ways they have angered, offended, or merely failed to encourage him. “This demon” Evagrius reports, then drives the monk “to desire other sites where he can more easily find work and make a real success of himself.” Having rejected the present and present company, the monk begins to dwell in self-pitying “[memories] of his dear ones and his former way of life.” Acedia then moves in for the kill, “[depicting] life stretching out for a long period of time, and brings before the mind’s eye the toil of the ascetic struggle and, as the saying has it, leaves no leaf unturned to induce the monk to forsake his cell and drop out of the fight.” (pg.6-7).
Do you ever think that you would be more fulfilled by working outside the home, or by some other pursuit other than your wifeing and mothering and homemaking? There is nothing wrong with a woman having interests and activities other than baby-making and laundry. There *is* however, something wrong with believing that you will be *more* fulfilled by “other things”, and looking to them with desire instead of finding joy in your current role.
We want life to have meaning, we want fulfillment, healing and even ecstasy, but the human paradox is that we find these things by starting where we are, not where we wish we were. We must look for blessings to come from unlikely, everyday places- out of Galilee, as it were- and not in spectacular events, such as the coming of a comet. (pg.12).
I don’t know about you, but I want to roll out of bed in the morning excited for what’s ahead… even if it’s simply laundry, cooking, and rocking a tired baby, mixed in with slobbery kisses, little arms around my neck, blossoming imaginative play, and whispered silly giggly secrets. Sunshine or grey skies, obedience or not, slip-ups, mistakes, i’m-sorry’s, i-love-you’s… or all of the above. It’s a holy and privileged calling – this mama thing – and I pray to God I never treat it as anything less.
Wholehearted Homemaking, Part Three: Finding Your Rhythm will be coming soon, and we’ll talk about how to combat this demon of acedia, and how to have joy in the daily routines of your homemaking. How to find blessings in “unlikely, everyday places”, cuz really? as a mama, I NEED to find joy there… I have no other option. Discontent and listlessness doesn’t fit me well.
Have you ever struggled with acedia? How have you wrestled with that in your own daily life – homemaking or otherwise?