Friday, May 20, 2011

Clinging: What We Must Let Go (and reflections by Johannes Tauler)

We cling to all kinds of things! We cling to material possessions and a multiplicity of comforts and pleasures in life. Some of us cling to other people. Others grasp for success in their career, along with power, promotion and prestige. Still others obsess over their looks and workout endless to improve their body image.

Of course we hate to admit that we are actually clinging. As Christians we know we shouldn’t cling. So, we deny that we have a problem (“I am simply trying to be a good steward of my body,” we assert). Or we excuse it as not being important (“A little innocent indulgence never hurt anyone,” we tell ourselves.) Sometimes we compare ourselves with others who have much bigger issues than ours, and that makes us feel good about ourselves!

The problem is that when we are clinging—even to harmless things—we cannot be clinging to Jesus. If my hands are clutching possessions, they cannot be holding on to the Lord. If my mind is filled with anxious thoughts about climbing the ladder, it is not focused on God’s faithfulness that provides for me.

Clinging can also be compared to eating junk food. If I nibble on junk food all afternoon, amazingly I won’t be hungry for healthy food at dinner time. Likewise, if I am filling my thoughts and my heart with material possessions or people or success, I curb my inner longing for God. Like junk food, these things do not give me lasting satisfaction—they are not what I am truly hungry for. However, like junk food, they numb my true appetite for the Lord so that I do not hungrily seek the Lord in prayer, Scripture, worship and fellowship!

“Do not love the world or anything in the world,” states 1 John 2:15-16. “If anyone love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world.”

If we want to grow spiritually, we need to stop the intake of junk food. We must cease clinging to all our little comforts, bad habits and things that keep us engrossed in worldly pleasures. We have to detach.

“We must arise from everything that is not God—from self and all created things,” says Johannes Tauler. “Such rising sets off deep within us a fierce longing to be stripped free and liberated from everything that separates us from God. The more we lay aside all these things, the more such longing grows within us!” [1]

Who is On the Throne?
Ultimately the question is: Who is on the throne in my heart? When I’m clinging to something, I give it center place in my heart. When I place anything on the throne, the Lord moves off the throne. He will not share his throne with any idol!

Serious believers who move forward in God are “noble people who truly arise and thereby shine forth (Isa 61:1). They allow God to prepare their inner depths,” continues Tauler, “and abandon themselves completely to God. They empty themselves of ‘self’ in all things and do not cling to anything.” [2]

Spiritual growth is so much more than “praying the prayer” or “getting saved.” It is more than knowing our Bible—the Pharisees were experts at that! Rather, spiritual formation is about detaching from all the false loves in the world in order for that “fierce longing” for the Lord to arise in us—and out of that longing for us to pursue Jesus with all our strength!

1. Johannes Tauler Predigten: Vollständige Ausgabe, edited by Georg Hofmann (Freiburg: Herder, 1961), sermon 3, pp. 35-36. The translation is my own.
2. Ibid., p. 37.
© 2011 Glenn E. Myers

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