Detachment – part 1
In my own reading and thinking lately,* I’ve been struck by the theme of detachment and how essential it is to a healthy life.
That needs a lot of explanation, and I realize it may sound completely wrong. We are accustomed to hear the word “detachment” in negative terms. To be “detached” sounds to us like being emotionally cold, disconnected, unavailable, even unable to feel or care. We are hurt by people who seem detached, and it’s often being hurt that can lead one to becoming detached. And if we find ourselves being detached, we are in a desperate place indeed. This is all true.
But there is an aspect to detachment that is healthy, mature, and essential.
Take, for example, Jesus being in the swirl of the crowds around him, surrounded by overwhelming and endless needs, and he slips away:
While it was still night, way before dawn, he got up and went out to a secluded spot and prayed. Simon and those with him went looking for him. They found him and said, “Everybody’s looking for you.” (Mark 1:35-37, MSG)
We live in a world, and we are living in a time, when we are hyper-attached – to news updates, to social media posts, to over-politicized angles on the pandemic we’re living through. We are often like barnacles in a sea of worry, anxiety, fear, anger, and despair.
The Family Systems practitioner Peter Steinke, who popularized and applied the work of Murray Bowen and Edwin Friedman, speaks in terms of a person developing the ability to be “differentiated,” meaning having the capacity to be in a system (however that is defined) but not to be defined by the system. Like being “in the world but not of it.”
It’s not at all that we – or Jesus – don’t/doesn’t care. It’s because we care that it is so essential to detach, to slip away even if for a few moments, to stop grasping so we can be held by Another.
The German medieval mystic Meister Eckhart taught that to be empty of all created things is to be full of God; to be full of created things is to be empty of God.
There is voluntary detachment and forced detachment. Tomorrow I want to think more about the difference between the two, and the opportunities that both can present.
Today, ask for the grace to detach for at least a few moments, to slip away and be held by God, who cares about you.
*lately, thanks mostly to John Eldredge, Dallas Willard, and Peter Scazzero.
Bob Jacobs is Pastor of Westminster Church, Rapid City. Check out his personal blog at www.brittlecrazyglass.wordpress.com.