Saturday, January 19, 2013

What is this Detachment Thing?

Pondering this detachment thing.

For years I have come to Scripture passages about denying oneself, and I've always gotten a bit muddied. Today I realize that when I start to think about detachment, the first thing that comes to mind is a sort of doing violence to oneself. I think there comes a moment when something that might be described as a violent effort is necessary in relationship to oneself, but generally it seems that detachment is not about doing violence to oneself.

I think often of that trip I made to Germany in high school. For part of the time I stayed with a host family. When I arrived, they offered me food, but I declined simply because I thought it was polite to not need anything. Actually, it was more than that. I thought I would be committing some kind of eternal offense, revealing myself as a hateful being, if I needed anything. So I declined food the first day, and pretty much any time they offered food to me, as opposed to simply telling me, "It's meal time now. We are all sitting down and eating." Since that was obligatory, I could accept feeding myself then, since by following the obligation I would certainly be pleasing.

I got pretty hungry.

That is not detachment. That is not denying oneself. That is doing violence to myself by refusing to admit I am a human being with human needs.

It seems that detachment has to entail deeply knowing one's need, and accepting it -- not so much as my need (all about muah) as it is about my participation in creaturely status. I need what all people need. I have this need; it is what makes me the same as everyone else. It is pride to think either that I am above needing or that my need puts me in a different class of folk from everyone else.

And after I accept that need, I then bring it to my Maker. I submit myself in my need to the One I know loves me. I also accept the instruments He puts in my life -- people, or other means like my labor, my work against injustice -- to find the provision God has already supplied for my need.

And since I know that my need makes me the same as everyone else, when I find my need supplied I do not forget that others need what I do. I do not keep taking or searching for moremoremore. I remember that I am also an instrument for others.

But mostly, I am given into the hand of God like a little loaf or a little fish. He directs my paths, He establishes both my provision and what flows from me. Detachment means to want nothing more than this.

At least, that's how I see it.

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