Detachment as Greater Attachment

I was re-reading some excerpts from the writings of Henri Nouwen and came across some thoughts of his on Jesus’ encounter with the rich young man.  Nouwen (in Sabbatical Journey) writes


The story does not imply a huge leap from everything to nothing, but rather a long series of small steps in the direction of love. The tragedy for the rich young man was not that he was unwilling to give up his wealth – who would be? The real tragedy for him was that he missed something both he and Jesus desired, which was he opportunity to develop a deep and intimate relationship. It is not so much a question of detachment as it is a question of fully trusting and following the voice of love. Detachment is only a consequence of a greater attachment. Who would worry about his few possessions when invited to be intimate with the lord of abundance, who offers more fish than we can catch and more bread than we can eat?

I love Nouwen’s phrasing.  When we talk about “detachment” our focus is often on what we must give up.  But if we think of detachment standing alone, it IS hard.  We can too readily think of it as a matter of will, forcing ourselves to give something up.

But detachment as a consequence of attachment has a different feel.  The deepening of our relationship makes the detachment from those things that impede our living our of our relationship with God a much more natural process.

And that puts the emphasis deepening our relationship with Christ, on “fully trusting and following the voice of love.”


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