Though a seemingly simple question, the question of attachment is one which may unearth many layers. It also isn’t a matter of one and done, but most certainly bears continual, if not daily, reflection. But why, isn’t this a quick inquiry as to what is important in my life? And is it wrong to desire for or want to be attached to anything in life?
The short answer is no. We are by our very nature created to be in relationship with God and one another. Desires can be good and enable us to make the best use of our time here on this earth to grow in our love for God and all creation great and small. The important clarification here is to ask ourselves where are our dis-ordered attachments in our lives. In and of themselves any of these things may not be intrinsically bad, but our attraction towards and longing for them could very well be.
What is it that supersedes our pursuit of God will for our lives, or has begun to interfere with a genuine relationship with him?
The reason why this question is so challenging is that we are prone to convince ourselves about our own level of attachment or allocate culpability to friends, family and even God himself. We, in a sense, look at our intentions rather than our actions themselves and determine our complicity or innocence. St. Ignatius, is quite helpful here as he looks at attachment from three Christian perspectives with a scenario of newly acquired wealth.
With the first person, we have an acknowledgement that the desire has potential for temptation or ruin but the reflection goes no further. Unable to do some much needed introspection, this individual has no idea the effect of that desire might be in their own lives. It is merely a subject for debate. For the second person, they want to make God part of their already determined course of life and pray that he approves of how they use that desire. God is essentially asked to give his consent to a decision that he never was invited to be a part of in the first place, the co-pilot approach. Finally, with the third perspective we see that they admit that they are attracted to that desire and strive to become detached from it. Though they may never be completely free from that desire, they seek to become indifferent to an disordered desire and to know God’s will.
At different times in our life, we may be any one of these three or a combination, in varying degrees, with anything of value. Again, it isn’t that we shouldn’t have desires or be joyful at the realization of a goal achieved. Rather, this pursuit cannot be at a cost to our relationship with Jesus Christ or God’s will for our lives. Is there a push for success at work, reward or recognition for even the most humanitarian of causes? Am I motivated by affection, dependent on praise and love outside of myself? Mentally while we might understand that all human praise, wealth and success are fleeting, nonetheless we chase after the wave anyway.
Quite honestly, I can say that as a type A personality in reform, I have often been driven by the pursuit of perfection. Regardless of what it is, how long I have attempted the task, or lack of God given talent I have pursued the brass ring. While this is in itself a noble cause, I have come to recognize not the goal that God always intends. At times, I am being asked to help others to realize their dream or to learn important lessons in the process. Other times, I have discovered that there is a dire need to patiently await God to unfold his desire for me rather than try to force his hand.
Just order, then humbly places God first and everything in God’s hands. It requires inviting God, from the beginning, to take the lead with whatever your heart desires. Recognizing that his plan for you is ultimately better, you acquiesce to becoming who you were created to be. And when on occasion that order is tested, it is prayerfully discerning how to detach and surrender once again.
“Father, you know me better than I know myself. Help me to release my stubborn willfulness and attachment to the things that get in the way of my love for you. Enable me to learn to desire your righteous and holy will for my life. Allow me to see, even in small ways, where I need to let go and grow. All this I ask in your name, Amen.”