Check Your Oil!
When my parents were visiting recently, I reluctantly told them over a Saturday morning pancake breakfast that I hadn’t had my car’s oil changed since June when I last saw them. I couldn’t articulate a good reason why I hadn’t. Well, I’ve just been busy. I don’t know where to go to get my oil changed in Spokane. My car’s mileage isn’t that far above the marker for when I should have had it changed.
Unfortunately, my parents are too smart for excuses. As soon as the breakfast dishes were in the dishwasher, we drove to a local car shop where my car had had some repair work the year before. When we discovered the shop wasn’t open on Saturdays, my parents made me promise that I would call and make an appointment, which I did a week and a half later.
After work one day this week, I drove to the shop and feigned confidence as I told them what work I wanted on my car: “I’d like an oil change and a general checkup before the winter.”
“Can do,” said the car shop’s owner. He was an older man, gentle of voice and demeanor with a full white beard and mustache. I settled into a wooden chair in the small, dusty room and furtively watched as the owner interacted with other customers. He knew customers by name and took professions of “I hope this won’t cost too much!” with a calm nod of his head.
I was starting to feel good that I had managed to take care of my car when the owner came in half an hour after I arrived.
“When was the last time you changed your oil?”
I squirmed in my seat. I could have listed my excuses, but the words wouldn’t come.
“Your oil was really low,” he cautioned. “You need to bring it in sooner next time. We’ll put a sticker on your car for you so you know when to bring it in next time.”
Chastised, I paid him, hopped in my car and drove off. At a light, I looked up at the sticker on my windshield and saw this admonition: “Check your oil!”
Why had I procrastinated so long on getting my oil changed? The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I don’t do this with just my car. There are lots of little daily duties that I put off with excuses. I’m too tired to clean the bathroom. I’m sure the rain will soon water the lawn. My housemates will empty the dishwasher.
The more disturbing thing is that I also apply such excuses to my spiritual life. I read my Bible half asleep. I hold onto grudges. I let distractions flood my mind while praying. I simply don’t pray.
Procrastinating on changing my oil is an outward manifestation of an inward spiritual problem. The more I think about it, the more I think the root of the problem is a word that my History of Christianity professor taught me: acedia (ah-k-dee-ah). Acedia is a Latin word that finds its roots in the monastic world and denotes a kind of sloth or carelessness. Monks suffering from acedia would become restless with the rhythms of work and prayer in the monasteries and were said to suffer from the “noonday demon.” What starts out as a small problem—not changing my car’s oil or restlessness—can become a much bigger problem: a burned-out engine or a monk who forsakes the holy calling of pursuing Christ.
But now that I can check “changing car’s oil” off my to-do list, it’s time to tackle something else. For a start, I could use the Olive Tree Bible Study app on my new Kindle Fire and start not just reading the Bible as a rote routine, but actually engaging with the text and applying it to my life. (Yes, I’m that technophobe.)
Nike’s slogan has something to it. Just do it. Sometimes we just have to do the routine things of life in order to keep the car running, the house clean, and our minds and hearts steeped in the Word of God. And when we start to slip up, one thing is sure: God has no qualms about reminding us and sometimes with a well-placed exclamation point.
“Check your oil!”
Chime in! Which everyday chores do you procrastinate? Do you think it’s a form of acedia? What can you do to combat acedia in your own life?
**To keep me accountable to overcoming my procrastination tendencies, I am committing to read a chapter from the Gospel of Mark in my Bible Study app every day for the next 16 days. When I’m finished with all 16 chapters, I’ll be back with a blog to share my insights from reading Mark. You’ll be able to keep me accountable!