Saturday, January 29, 2011
Detachment: Untying the Canoe
Photograph by Drew Collins
Many Christians I meet truly desire to pursue a deeper life in Christ. They are tired of the shallow Christianity that surrounds them. They dissatisfied with the lukewarmness of their own walk with God.
If we truly want to move to a more profound plane in our spiritual life, however, we need to detach from all the things that bog us down. Hebrews 12:1-2 says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” Not only sin holds us back, but anything that encumbers us and weighs us down will keep us from running the race as God desires.
One of the essential rhythms of genuine, transformative spiritual formation is the practice of detachment. Detachment is letting go of the many things that we cling to. It is loosening our grip on anything that we try to fill our inner emptiness with. Detachment is breaking our emotional attachment to the many things that we tend to clutch so tightly.
Detach from What?
We need to detach from anything created. As created beings we have a propensity to grasp other temporal things. There are three general categories of things that we cling to. So long as our hands cling to them, we are not free to cling to the Lord.
First, most of us need to detach from material possessions. Our preoccupation with buying stuff is unhealthy. We work extra hours to make the money needed to buy all of our toys. Then more time and effort are devoured as we try to maintain them and store them. Concurrently we complain that we have little time for prayer or the closest friendships in our lives—and we cannot figure out where our time has gone!
We need to detach. Detachment is such a foreign concept to contemporary Western believers. Our lives are surrounded by so much materialism that we have adopted more or a worldly orientation than we begin to realize. Rather than grasping our possessions, we must learn to hold all things loosely. We enjoy them as blessings from the Lord, but do not claim them for our own. As we release our death grip on all that we possess, we being to discover a new freedom in life.
Second, we tend to cling to people. God has given us others to love and from whom we can receive love. Relationships are some of the greatest blessings in this life. However, when we begin to cling to those closest to us, we run the risk of turning them into idols. Instead, we must hold all people as a gift from God and not grip them so tightly that we try to draw our life from them.
Third—and most insidious—we cling to ourselves. As fallen human beings, we hold onto our wants, our comforts, our way of doing things. We also defend our plans, our agenda and even our own concepts of how we want to grow spiritually. Just as much as we cling to material possessions, we tenaciously clutch our own spiritual agenda. Our fallenness creeps into our own way of doing spiritual formation. Again, we need to detach.
Canoe tied to the Shore
Trying to move forward spiritually without detachment, is like trying to paddle a canoe while it is tied to the shore. No matter how thin the cord is, so long as it connects the canoe with land, the canoe is going nowhere.
So it is in Christian spiritual formation. So long as we maintain our attachments to stuff, we will not move forward on the spiritual venture that God has for us. But as we daily practice detachment, we discover a freedom that we have only dreamed of for our lives. Like the canoe unbound from the shoreline, we can glide forward on an exploration of a vast new territory that God has waiting for each one of us!
© 2011 Glenn E. Myers