On desire and detachment


“You’re in the desert,” he told me. I was surprised, for I hadn’t considered that before. My prayer has been fairly consoling, I’m surrounded by loving friends, I have plenty that’s bringing me life and plenty more to look forward to. So when my spiritual director said that to me recently, it gave me pause. And the more I’ve pondered it, the more it resonates. In fact, I do find myself in a season of drawing away, in some sense. It’s a time of waiting and watching, of more prayer and rest and quiet than I’m accustomed to. Daily I find invitations from God to be still and know.


And one thing I’ve been wrestling with in this desert season is this: desire and detachment. For it’s a time that I’ve been able to dream more freely, to imagine what is next, to ponder the marvels the Lord may have in store. I’ve allowed these seeds of desire (which are, I firmly believe, from God Himself) to stretch out and take root in my heart. But then I’m confronted with a temptation: to let these dreams of mine to somehow become absolutely necessary for my happiness and fulfillment and satisfaction. To resume my common grasping disposition, bent on doing everything in my power to make them come true. So that’s where detachment comes in.


But here’s my problem with detachment, and perhaps it reveals that I don’t understand the concept all too well: it seems to counteract my penchant for dreaming. What comes to mind when I think of detachment is a lack of passion or preference, maybe even a dose of apathy. As if to say, Here’s what I long for, but deep down, I don’t care. I just can’t quite reconcile being a wide-eyed, full-hearted dreamer with holy indifference, peaceful detachment, an open-handed offering to God of all that I yearn for. I can’t honestly tack on the oft-used “if it’s Your will, Lord” to earnest prayers of great desire.


I have no intention to let my dreams and desires decrease, but I also can’t possibly forego this challenge to understand and accept and practice detachment when I know it is good for me. Which makes me grateful for this desert season, for it’s the perfect time to wrestle with God. I know, of course, that my dreams point me to Him and will ultimately be fulfilled in heaven, but I also know that He wants to give me, His beloved daughter, good gifts in this life. And plenty of my dreams involve the here and now, my earthly life.


One thing I can be sure of is this: God is at work. I like to imagine that He’s using this time of pondering as preparation for something great, or is carving out new space in my heart to receive, or is pulling me away from attachments to worldliness to attach myself more fully to Him. If I can say today that I love Him more than I did yesterday, and say that time and time again, I will consider that a great victory. He may baffle me, and keep me in the dark, and suspend my understanding, and still I love Him. He may let my heart remain restless this side of heaven, may continue cultivating my dreams and desires, may allow the great unknown to seize me with its perplexity, and still I love Him. He may remain with me here in this desert for however long He pleases—still, still, still, I love Him. With my unfulfilled dreams and all.


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