That’s Good. Do It Again.

It happens almost every Sunday night. I get a little tickle in my stomach thinking about the week ahead. And all I want to do is call my mom and whine, “Do I have to?” It’s about to be Monday.

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 Steneim 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.

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10 responses to “That’s Good. Do It Again.

  1. It sounds like the creator is using the most straightforward of positive reinforcement. That’s a good post, Erin. Do it again. : )

  2. Wow – someone found me out! How did you know that I’m having difficulty focusing this Monday?! (Seriously, how many times can I check facebook or pour myself a cup of coffee?!)

    A while back, I wrote about this very thing:

    http://langdocs.com/2012/04/03/lifes-encore-do-it-again/.

    I so appreciate the ways you connected this to our specific work – God speaking blessing over us in the midst of our seemingly ordinary tasks. Love it!

    • What connections here, Maureen! I love the idea on your own blog about repetition being an indication of delight. But for us adults who are on our way to death I wonder how we capture or recapture the delight of repetition when it becomes squandered. Is by delighting in new things? Picking back up on old ones? Or doing less things so we feel the weightless rhythm more acutely?

  3. Erin,
    I’ve been following your blog for quite some time and this is by far your best entry. It really spoke to me. Thanks.
    Love, your favorite Aunt Trish

  4. According to Kathleen Norris, acedia was originally one of the desert monks’ “eight bad thoughts” that eventually led to the Seven Deadly Sins, and acedia was more or less folded into Sloth. Norris actually went on to write a whole book about acedia called Acedia & Me: A Marriage, Monks, and A Writer’s Life. One of the things that has stuck with me for years since reading it is the following notion, which is close to verbatim: “Anger is caring too much about the wrong things; acedia is caring too little about the right things.” I’m still not sure if I totally agree with that notion, but I’ve appreciated having it to wrestle with.

    • Deborah – Thanks for your clarification on the concept of acedia. The framing of it as a sin of “caring too little about the right things” is helpful. But perhaps it’s also not knowing exactly what are the right things and how to go about disciplining your attention on them. Both a Catholic and evangelical upbringing have formed a slant in my spiritual life to guilt and the notion of there being “right worship.”

  5. This is fabulous, Erin. Thank you!!!! Do it again, please.

  6. I love this new thought on “doing it again.” Mostly, I don’t mind the repetition of my life, my work — it brings rhythm and structure that I desperately need. But for as long as I can remember, I have suffered from what my sister and I for years have called “a case of the Sundays” – that bubbling anxiety about the new week. Thanks for shining God’s light into that piece of my heart. Bless you.

  7. Erin, this has become my mantra for the week. Thank you for sharing such a beautiful post :)

  8. Thank you Erin. Yes, please, do it again.

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