Getting “Stuck” In the Spiritual Journey

There is a time in each our lives that we get “stuck” along the way in our spiritual journey. Getting stuck can take on many forms, but it is usually a time of plateau in growth, a time of complacency, a time of boredom. It is like being caught in the Bermuda Triangle of spirituality.

An ancient term for this time of stagnation is, “acedia.” Acedia is a concept developed by monastics for when one hits a time of dryness. Kathleen Norris discusses this concept at length in her book, Acedia & Me: A Marriage, Monks, and A Writer’s Life. Norris points out that “At its Greek root, the word acedia means the absence of care.” Acedia develops from many sources but is oftentimes connected with what feels like repetition.

First, acedia has nothing to do with salvation. Salvation is completely and totally God’s action and there is nothing that I do on my part to change that fact.

Acedia does rob one of joy and a sense of the abundant life offered to us by Jesus. When one feels trapped and bored, it is hard to see the joy in the Christian life.

In some respects, dealing with acedia calls for discipline and a certain amount of plodding along in faithfulness. Norris points out that when acedia steps in, it is important to keep on with the discipline of prayer and time before the Word.

Yet, some just refuse to deal with it. My observation is that some attempt to ignore it and refuse to deal with it. These are the ones who are absolutely unable or unwilling to reflect upon life. For those who cannot or will not reflect, not much can be done. They have chosen a path of bitterness that will bring unhappiness and heartache. They become complacent and live a joyless life that is frustrating spiritually and emotionally. Some of this response comes from fear and some comes from sheer laziness. Again, salvation is intact, but the joy is gone and will remain gone as long as the person with acedia ignores it.

Some just get stuck and don’t know what to do.   James Neppl, graduate of St. John’s University, Collegeville, MN wrote a paper entitled, “Spiritual Engineering – Being Present as Companion for Men in Transition – An Invitation.” (http://www.spiritsatwork.net/Spiritual%20Engineering.pdf) He begins by quoting a prayer written by Thomas Merton, “My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.” (Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude (Garden City, New York: Doubleday 1968, 81.) Neppl makes certain assumptions about the male spiritual journey, but then discusses the importance of having a spiritual director/companion with whom to walk. The spiritual companion helps ask the right questions and also is there to listen to God’s voice in the process. The spiritual companion helps listen for the answers to the question, “Where am I going?”

Male and female can be blessed by this advice. We are not called to go it alone. When we travel alone, we actually do not always ask good questions and sometimes miss what we could be hearing. To walk with a spiritual director/companion can help one move out of acedia into abundance.

If you would like to have Steve Arnold serve as your spiritual director/companion please feel free to make contact at steve@pivotpointministries.org. Spiritual direction is available face to face or on SKYPE and the first session is free.

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