What does sloth mean to you?

A reflection from our friend, pastor, mentor, global practitioner, John Notehelfer (published with his permission):

I have been reading a series of devotionals on the “Seven deadly sins” by Win Collier. What got my personal attention was his challenging reflections on SLOTH. Perhaps it was because while I was reading it, the still small voice of the Holy Spirit was talking back to me with His own cautions.

Let me forward some of Collier’s devotional:

“When we consider deadly sins that give birth to all kinds of ruin, we probably don’t think of sloth as a vice serious enough to make the cut. Today, sloth evokes images of someone decked out in PJs, glued to the couch, popping M&Ms with pizza boxes scattered across the room while binging Netflix for days on in……

But in the Christian tradition sloth refers to something far more treacherous than mere laziness. Sloth describes the numerous ways we shrink from the fullness of life God has called us toward. We shrink from our relationships. We shrink from the God who loves us and from this marvelous—yet often demanding and perplexing—life God has placed before us. When we surrender to sloth, we lose our fire, our boldness. (T or F)

When we are in sloth’s grip, we withdraw from God and God’s world, and from our God-given confidence. And when we withdraw, our vision narrows. ‘The path of the slothful is a patch of thorns,’ Proverbs says, ‘but the path of the upright is an open highway’ (15:19. author’s translation). Sloth drains our energy and hems us in.

But when we courageously cast off sloth’s malaise and turn in trust to God something shifts. Hope returns, and renewed vigor begins to seep in. God prods us toward a wide-open future.

THE WARNING: When sloth does manifest as laziness, it is a symptom of our increasingly wilting soul. Trapped in the quagmire of idleness, we feel helpless to embrace our life, act upon any deep truth, or pursue God with any conviction or fervor….we become numb to God and stop being attentive to the invitation to live out of the energy of God’s flaming love. As Rebecca DeYong put it, ‘Sloth has more to do with being lazy about love than being lazy about work.’

The author’s PS – Speaking out of his own experience of a year-long season of melancholy, he observed these symptoms: it can take the shape of lethargy, a listless sadness. We no longer see the joy in God, in our good life, in those we love, in this marvelous world. I felt useless to my family, to God, to my work. I was also restless, obsessively grasping for distractions. I could not pull myself together and I despised myself for that.”

He signs off with this good news: “Though it came slow, healing occurred when I simply became curious about why I felt so empty or so desperate, why I felt so disconnected to God’s kindness and mercy. I began to recognize how hungry I was for God’s love to touch me; and in time this love renewed my hungry heart….Our sloth points us to specific, immediate places where we are desperate to be touched by God’s reassuring love (his loving kindness).”

Prayerfully, John N

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