Monday, November 18, 2013


“Detachment” is a good Christian word and a good Bible word. 

We hear it in the writings of the deeper life Christian writers, mystics, contemplatives, and throughout Scripture. Just as a helium balloon will never be able to mount up to start its journey if the line by which it is tethered to the earth is not cut loose, so we need to deliberately detach ourselves, and loosen our grip on the material things of life. 

For this I need a determined act of my will and prayer for God's enabling strength. We don't detach easily from the comfortable and superfluous things which entangle us.

For the famous Double Eagle II hot air balloon and her crew of three—destination Paris, France from the potato fields of Maine—arriving did not come cheaply. In order to stay aloft on the last leg of their long journey, the crew was forced to throw over the side such valuable gear as recording equipment, radios, film, cameras, sleeping bags, chairs, and a cooler with most of their water and food. They treated it all like rubbish to achieve their goal of safe arrival.

A professor of political and environmental science at a Pennsylvania college suggested, “Perhaps the silver lining of the recession is that people are coming to realize they can live with less and their lives are richer for it.” Shrinking paychecks and loss of jobs are prompting Americans to pare back their lifestyles. A Met Life Study of the American Dream concludes that nearly half of consumers say they already have what they basically need. People are feeling both forced and inspired to get back to their core needs. Someone has written a book titled “Shed Your Stuff, Change Your Life.” The point being made is that people are coming to value objects less and experiences and relationships more.

A blog writer in San Diego launched a “100 Things Challenge” which sparked thousands of responses nationwide. He inspired people to reduce their possessions to fewer than 100 items and try to break the hold of materialism. We remember Jesus’ words, “A man’s life does not consist in the abundance of things he possesses.” 

People seem to be catching on that voluntary simplicity, spending less, and saving more is a better “new normal” pattern. For many, it's beginning to come back to basics; websites on living close to nature are getting more traffic. Recessions, economic downturns, and near depressions are becoming a kind of wake-up call to all of us caught in the sticky web of consumerism and the drive toward prosperity at all costs. 

After all, “The American Dream” is not found in Holy Writ.

I need to experience Saint Paul's detachment, “…for [Christ] I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:8). God forbid that the precious things I possess, the urgent things I do, the treasures I hug to myself will seize me, entangle me, hold me, and mold me to their image.

It's not true what the bumper sticker declares: “The man with the most toys wins.” We are unable to take such things with us when we leave this earth anyway. A familiar hymn challenges us to detach ourselves from the temporal and the material: “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.”

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