Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Inertia, lethargy, sloth, laziness, whatever

The last month has almost been a total waste for me. And there is no excuse other than my own sloth. Yep - that's one of them 7 deadly sins. Never thought much about sloth, other than wonder why in the world it was a deadly sin, until the DWS 704 The Sacred Actions and Ministries of Christian Worship class.

Our esteemed professor, Dr. Carla Waterman talked about sloth and why it is so deadly - I felt like she was talking directly at me with a piercing directness into my deepest heart. She described it from the standpoint of hope (I hope I can do her description justice). Hope, she described, is like an IV drip that keeps us functioning. We hope (trust) in God and that regular nourishment of hope keeps our head up and our faith strong during difficult times, and fills us with joy during the good times. But, when we give in to sloth, it's as if we turn down that hope drip by saying "Oh, I can't do that, that thing that God wants me to do, so I'm gonna do something else (something I think I can do without God's help, like watch tv, or do busy work to cover up the sloth, or sleep, etc)." We keep turning down that drip (we stop trusting that we can do what God wants us to do), until eventually we just turn it off all together. I go through stages as I slowly turn off the hope where at first I'm just a little too tired to do what I'm supposed to do, then I'm weary and feel emotionally drained and don't want to do the job, finally landing solidly into despair and it's all I can do to get up and function at all. And when I get there, I've essentially turned away from God and said, "I don't need You, You can't help me, and basically I don't believe You are even there to begin with." And that, my friends, is why sloth is a deadly sin.
I've been to that point of despair, and only by the grace of God did I come back from it. I was suspicious that perhaps that despair was reality, and that my faith was just a coverup for the truth about this world. But, when Carla described sloth in this way, as a sin, I realized that she was absolutely right! My despair was a sin - it was an evil that I had allowed to take over my heart and trick me into a falsehood. But, now that I know this, I can see it coming and (hopefully) make choices that will lead away from that downward path and keep holding on to that hope.
Lately, I've been sliding down, as evidenced by my lack of progress on this thesis and by my growing reluctance to even work on it. I even heard myself say yesterday that I was ready to give up because I can't do it. Next thing you know, I'll end up back at that "You can't help me, You don't even exist." But, this time, I have caught myself. I will not let the big Sloth monster take hold again.

So, this morning, I woke up in time to start working again. I've decided that I really do want to go with my original purpose statement:

The purpose of this project is to address the passive nature of our current worship services by designing services that would allow and encourage more participation by the congregation through a trained worship planning team. Worship will therefore support the possibility of transformed lives through the congregants’ participation in the act of worship.

Instead of the newer one:

The purpose of this project is to explore the connection between participatory worship and transformation in the lives of the congregants. Does participatory worship create more fertile opportunity for God’s transformation than worship that is passive?

Here's why - I do want to explore the connection between participatory worship and transformation precisely because I do believe that participatory worship creates more fertile ground for God's transformation that passive worship. I cannot, however, measure transformation within the scope and time frame of this project. What I can measure is if we were able, as a team, to create worship services that allowed for more participation from the congregants. I can even, to a certain extent, measure some of the congregants' level of participation. I won't measure how they 'liked' or 'disliked' the services because that's asking about their preferences, and that's not important to this project. I will ask if they participated, if they felt they had opportunities and safe space in which to do so, how they participated, etc.

Ultimately, and I hope to make this point very clear in my paper, participation is not an end-all-be-all fix. Participation doesn't guarantee squat. Only God transforms lives and God can choose to transform lives anyway He chooses. God can make children out of rocks if He so chooses. What I'd like to show in my research paper (with biblical, theological, and historical support) is that worship that is participatory (the whole person is engaged) helps the worshiper come to a place where he/she is ready and open for God to transform. Passive worship (really quite an oxymoron, don't you think?) doesn't do that, and in fact could even be a hindrance. With that foundation, then I want to develop this worship planning team to create worship services that are participatory because of this belief.

Talking in circles, I know, but perhaps you (and maybe even I) understand a little more clearly where I'm going with this. Perhaps now I can get past this inertia and not slide down the sloth chute. Only with the grace of God...


Blogger Elaine said...

You have no idea how much I needed to read this.

I don't like to use the word, "sloth". I actually prefer, "avoidance" or "laziness" or "procrastination" or all kinds of things that don't sound so much like I am denying the person God created me to be. After all, Jesus said that his Father is always at work. Always at work creating -- being that which makes God, God -- and we -- I -- am created in his image.

When I surf the web instead of facing work that might scare me, I am denying the very image of God.

Oh, I know it. I've confessed it, prayed over it, cried over it.

I'm taping your description of the interplay between hope and sloth to my desk.


10:47 PM  
Blogger Amy Stewart said...

Elaine, it's a comfort to me to know that I'm not alone in this. I hesitated even writing this post because I didn't want people at church to think I wasn't this highly productive, high energy, always smiling person they know. So, don't go spreading it around at church, ok? I've got a facade to protect :)

1:06 PM  
Blogger Elaine said...

You and me both.


8:36 PM  

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