It’s a word that makes one think of mist lifting off a lake in the morning. Or the heat of day gradually giving way to the cool of evening.
It’s also a word that John Wesley uses when he wants to talk about the danger of losing a once vital faith, over time, as the pressures and trials of life take their toll.
When I first came across the concept of dissipation to describe how faith can be lost (and lost even without meaning to do so), it was a real revelation to me. Dissipation helps to explain a spiritual dilemma: namely, how it is possible that a faith once received may not remain as strong as it does in the beginning. We continue to live in a broken world, and even if we find ourselves transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit, the nature of life in the present means that we will experience challenges to keeping on the path of faith.
Wesley puts it this way in his sermon, “On Dissipation” — “We are encompassed on all sides with persons and things that tend to draw us from our centre. Indeed, every creature, if we are not continually on our guard, will draw us from our Creator. The whole visible world, all we see, hear, or touch, all the objects either of our senses or understanding, have a tendency to dissipate our thoughts from the invisible world, and to distract our minds from attending to him who is both the author and end of our being.”
I write on the spiritual issue of dissipation in my new column for the Arkansas United Methodist newspaper. I tend to think that pastors becoming more familiar with this concept can aid in the pastoral care of their congregations. It is a good example where learning the doctrinal content of a solid Wesleyan practical theology can make a real difference in ministry.