Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Detachment means Cleaning House . . . . . Insights from Johannes Tauler

If we want to enter into the deeper life—the abundant life—that Jesus promised us, we need to detach from anything and everything that would hold us back.

Cleaning House
Why is detachment such an essential spiritual discipline for those who desire to experience the deeper Christian life? The spiritual rhythm of detachment is like cleaning house.

When we first give ourselves to the Lord and invite him into our lives, it is as if we welcome Jesus into the “living room” of our hearts. We allow him to clean things up as we repent of coarser sins. Once we are “presentable” in Christian circles, we are often pretty well satisfied.

However, there are other rooms in our hearts that still need to be emptied. They are often filled with worldly things that we want to cling to—whether material possessions, people, our physical appearance or any number of petty little pleasures. While they may not be sinful in and of themselves, they take our time and attention. Like Frodo in Lord of the Rings, we begin stroking the ring and obsessing about whatever “our precious” might be, until it betrays us and begins to control us!

Emptying Ourselves
Therefore, we need to detach. We need to allow God’s Spirit to search our inner lives and clean house.

So long as we are clinging to popularity, power and pride, our hands are not open to receive what the Lord has to give us. If our thoughts are preoccupied with our own plans and projects, we are not receptive to God’s new direction for our lives. So long as our hearts are cluttered with things that we hold on to for security, we are not free to accept the fullness of the Almighty—the only one who can truly satisfy us.

Serious believers who desire to move forward in God need to “empty themselves of ‘self’ in all things and do not cling to anything—neither in their service to God or their manner and practice of devotion,” observes Johannes Tauler. They demand their own way “neither in what they do or what they let undone; neither in this nor that; neither in joy nor suffering. They receive all things from God in humble fear and again reach out to him completely in naked poverty of self, in willing surrender, and humble themselves under God’s will. They are satisfied with whatever God wills in all things—whether in peace or strife—for they focus completely on the good and pleasing will of God [Romans 12:2].” [1]

Empty is Uncomfortable
It is uncomfortable to be empty. We feel unfulfilled and lonely. This is the experience of withdrawal. Whatever we have used to get our “fix,” we will go through withdrawal when we detach from it.

But if we are willing to empty ourselves, God will certainly fill us! (continued next week . . . )
[1] Johannes Tauler Predigten: Vollständige Ausgabe,ed. Georg Hofmann (Freiburg: Herder, 1961), sermon 5, pp. 37. The translation is my own.

© 2011 Glenn E. Myers

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