Detachment & Attachment

Larry Crabb, a Christian psychologist and spiritual director speaks of detachment and attachment as a cycle of spiritual growth. Inherent in our human nature is our attachment to sin. Sin is the desire to be satisfied with ‘second things’ instead of the ‘first things’. He describes ‘second things’ as our pursuit for things other than God. The work of spiritual direction is to detach from the second things and learn to attach to first things, as God intended for us at the beginning of time.

In the words of Ecclesiastes, second things are described as ‘vanities’. The wise King Solomon, came to a point in his life where he discovered that all things apart from God are vanity, five of which are described in the book:

  • gaining wisdom through thinking
  • finding pleasure in your sensations
  • achieving wealth and power
  • living ethically by a code that suits your self conscience
  • practicing religious piety to realize spirituality

At face value there is no problem with thinking, pleasure, wealth and power, ethical living and religious piety. The problem is when these ‘second things’ become the ‘first things’; when second things substitute first things. We were made for the ‘first things’. We recognize the Satan enamors us with the glitz and glamour of second things.

Coming to the place of detachment is not a rational journey. We have to come to the place when we recognize that the second things  really don’t matter and are insufficient in themselves.We come into a deep sense of knowing – not in the head – but in our whole being. “Detachment begins when the passions of the heart have nowhere to go”  (Larry Crabb).

Coming to this place of desperation is often referred to as ‘the dark night’ as described by St John of the Cross “God will lead the soul by a most lofty path of dark contemplation and aridity wherein it seems to be lost.”

Only when we recognise our foolish dependence on the ‘second things’ will we be open to the God of the ‘first things’. This is a good place to end up !

REFERENCE: LARRY CRABB. SCHOOL OF SPIRITUAL DIRECTION (2011)

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