Last month I wrote about going to the pastor’s wives conference in Oklahoma City. It was there that I learned a new word that really pegged me in some areas at some times. The word was, “accidie” (ak sidi). This I feel needs to be addressed as one of the stages of any ministers’ wife. The problem with this stage is that it can be recurring. It is hopefully short lived when it does rear its ugly head, but if not, can become quite a heavy burden for some.
According to the Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy, accidie is a: State that inhibits pleasure and prompts the rejection of ; one of the Seven Deadly Sins. Aquinas associates it with turning one’s back on things, through depression or self-hatred, and nicely defines it as a torpor of spirit which prevents one from getting down to anything good (Summa Theologiae, IIa 35. 1). Often it is translated as sloth, which is actually quite different. See also apathy.
Being a Baptist, I’m not a big proponent of the seven deadly sins, mind you, but this definition seemed to fit the best. Some of the others I read limited it to the sloth aspect. However, it really is more than that. I’ve found at times when I have been subject to the state of accidie it’s not because I’m being lazy, but rather that I’m being tormented into doing nothing for God. I may want to blame other people, but it is usually because I’m not in the right mind frame spiritually speaking. It is that feeling when you show up, but you’re not really there. You’ve become burned out on people and serving or loving them. Oh you may still do all of your duties, but not with the power or passion of God behind it. You feel unusable and somewhat in despair because you know that it’s wrong.
Accidie can sneak up on different people through different ways, but here’s when it tends to strike me. It’s usually times like right now, the beginning of summer. As I’ve written previously, summer is not a break for those in youth ministry. We’ve already been to senior camp, started a fireworks stand fundraiser and last night, we signed up the younger kids for junior camp. All of this entails dealing with many many parents, all who have their own concerns for their Johnny or Suzy. I often need to remind myself that I have three Johnny and Suzys of my own, about whom I have concerns. But, somehow, in dealing with these parents and even the kids themselves, people don’t communicate well. Some are argumentative, others don’t communicate at all until after the fact, and still others communicate and then recommunicate and then…well you get the picture.
For instance, I’m in charge of making up the schedule for the workers at the fireworks stand. This entails puzzle working for 35 kids! 2nd man wisely had a meeting and asked everyone to turn in a paper with the dates and times they could not work. Most people did this well and it’s working out fine. I have one controlling momma that turned in a five-page synopsis of her kids’ schedules. I spent hours mulling over all of these requests and fitting kids into the schedule so that everyone got approximately the same amount of hours. Yet, controlling momma still keeps stalking me around the church with problems and wanting more hours for her kiddos. I saw her sneak into the room last night while in the middle of signing up the junior campers, waiting to talk to me. I had to quietly and quickly pray that the Lord help me be loving and understanding because I was afraid I was gonna blow. When I looked up a few minutes later, she was gone. I firmly believe that was the Lord protecting her and me.
I go through all of this because it’s this kind of stuff that gets me down. I start feeling claustrophobic from all of the people that seem thankless and displeased with either myself or my 2nd man. All I can tend to see are the problems and then the little lies start to get whispered into my mind like, “these people don’t appreciate you or your husband,” or “why even bother, nobody cares about anything except themselves. Why do we even have fundraisers for these kids, make them pay their own way.” Or even, “Run! They’re coming after you!” I get frustrated when I have five people to track down after church, but get stopped in the hallway by four or five others, over matters of little consequence. What’s worse is that I start to see only faults in people and get blinded to my own. That’s a scary place to be. It’s at these times that I’m on the verge of shutdown, a.k.a. accidie. Oh, I’ll show up to church, but I’m not there spiritually at all. I’ll do what I have to and punch the time clock so to speak, but I’d rather hole up at home away from everybody.
I was just reading in I Thessalonians 2:19-20 “For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming? For ye are our glory and joy.” Oh wow, could I say that about the people to whom we minister? Honestly I probably could in about a month or two from now. However, the goal would be to say that I felt that way always: That my passion for serving is ever refreshed by my eyes being on the Lord for whom I serve.
Truthfully, it hinders me as a helpmeet for 2nd man and could have the possibility of hindering his ministry. This is why I was so enthralled to learn this word, accidie. It’s kind of like it put a name on this nebulous stage in which I sometimes enter. It also, made it a tangible stage in which I should be ever striving to avoid. Lord, help me and other ministers’ wives to be strong in you and your power to love people even when they aren’t so loveable. Goodness knows I’m not always loveable, but you died for me anyway and forgave me my sins. Please forgive me for toying with the stage of accidie, may I mark it and avoid it when at all possible.