Friday, February 26, 2016

The art of detachment




The last two months have really driven home to me the necessity of detachment. St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuit (Society of Jesus) order, was staunch supporter of detachment.
I was first introduced to the concept while reading “My Life with the Saints,” by Fr. James Martin, SJ (SJ means Society of Jesus, btw). 

Each chapter of the book details a saint who has had a significant impact upon Martin’s life. As a Jesuit, the life of St. Ignatius has impacted Martin. There are many areas of Ignatian spirituality that resonate with my soul; one particular challenging way is the practice of detachment. [I started typing “idea of” and realized my challenge not the idea – it’s making the idea a reality.]

Part of the ways that God has been shaping my life/heart is opening my eyes and heart to remember that this life is not all there is. Post-college, I was pretty detached. It was easy to say “whatever you will, God” when it was just me. …and then, I got what I wanted. I got married! …and, suddenly, (perhaps it wasn’t sudden at all) I wanted my way. I wanted Dan. I wanted this life. I wanted all the things my dreams were made of, and I could never be satisfied with less.

As a result, my relationship to God suffered. Why? How? Well, it’s quite simple. I didn’t want Jesus. I wanted everything else – with a side of Jesus. A helping of righteousness alongside the main dish of Jessica’s desires. Dan as the main course seasoned with a dusting of God’s miracle blessing dust.

[Excuse me while I puke.]

It has taken me awhile since the diagnosis to get to a point of accepting detachment. July 28 – January 8 was filled with a lot of rosaries. As those who are familiar with the Rosary know, that means 5 “Our Fathers” a day. Five times a day, I was asking that God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven…but, what I really meant was my will. I meant that he bring about the outcome I wanted: miraculous of healing for Dan, preventing him from suffering, deliverance from this trial.

This meant that my faith, my hope, my trust was all circumstantial. If Dan was getting better, Yea! God is good. But, as he continued to get sicker December 19th through January, faith falters when depended on an outcome like that.

On January 5, we met with the bone marrow doctor – and if you want a reality check: that’s where you need to go. I can’t speak for Dan, but hearing that what we had put our hopes in as a cure could potentially kill – it rocked me. I’ve blogged about this before, so I won’t go back there – had it not been for God’s mercy in providing me a new perspective, I do not know how I would be so full of hope now.

I started the following on January 15 about detachment:

Today (Friday) is our new chemo day, which means that on this day we meet with our doctor and we find out news. Approaching these days can be 'hard' - especially on days when you know results are coming. How do you prepare your heart for good news or bad news?

This fall, I read a little bit about St. Ignatius (founder of the Jesuits, aka 'Society of Jesus') - and his response would be to detach from the outcome. Detaching from the outcome does not mean giving up or accepting defeat. It simply indicates this greater understanding that the outcome of a test doesn't need to disrupt my faith: love for Jesus.

Dan and I were discussing this idea today: if treatments don't go as planned, it doesn't mean God isn't for us. ...and when we get bad news or there is confusion - that also doesn't mean that God isn't for us. ...but, it can feel like it.

So, rather than pin my hopes on an outcome (favorable or unfavorable), I have been getting back in touch with the unchanging, unwavering God who is. This God revealed himself to us through Jesus Christ - who demonstrated a radical way of loving - the Father and humanity. How did he do this?

Detachment. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed three times that the Father's will be done over his own desire. Through this, he submitted to a plan bigger than his own life. When he came to earth, he emptied himself of his rights as the second Person of the Trinity. Being found in the likeness of a man, Jesus practiced obedience to the Father. He accepted every part of what it means to be human - even dying (a horrible, excruciating, humiliating death).

The hope of His suffering and death was the resurrection: LIFE can come from death. Death is not the end. “Where, O Death, is your victory? Where, O Death, is your sting?” [not to say that life cannot be lonely for us  in the wake of death – but death is not the end]

Learning to practice detachment has helped me not only reconnect with the God who is, but, once again, God Himself has become my hope. Yesterday’s (2/25) reading from Jeremiah reminded me that our hope can be unfailing, when it is in the right place.

Reading 1 Jeremiah 17:5-10
Thus says the LORD:
Cursed is the man who trusts in human beings,
who seeks his strength in flesh,
whose heart turns away from the LORD.
He is like a barren bush in the desert
that enjoys no change of season,
But stands in a lava waste,
a salt and empty earth.
Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD,
whose hope is the LORD.

He is like a tree planted beside the waters
that stretches out its roots to the stream:
It fears not the heat when it comes,
its leaves stay green;
In the year of drought it shows no distress,
but still bears fruit.
More tortuous than all else is the human heart,
beyond remedy; who can understand it?
I, the LORD, alone probe the mind
and test the heart,
To reward everyone according to his ways,
according to the merit of his deeds.

Detachment, then, is not the art of being separated from all things – but separating our dependence, devotion, and allegiance from all the things that cannot bring life (eternal satisfaction). The art of detachment is being fully attached to the Lord, from whom our help comes. Detachment is hoping in the Lord – not only for deliverance from a trial – but even more, for communion with the One who is…Life, Love, Truth, the Way. 

May this be the prayer for us all:
Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose hope is the Lord!




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