Ignatian spirituality speaks of interior freedom and indifference. Indifference, in this context, does not mean being apathetic or not caring, but rather holding onto all things – gifts, talents, possessions, relationships, reputations, opinions of others, job titles, life itself – lightly rather than possessively.
Most of us have a tendency to cling, as if by tightly cleaving we could make our worlds safe. Banks, lockboxes, safes, locks, deadbolts, guns, and fear. “Things are in the saddle and ride mankind.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)
The reality, however, is that all is transient. Stuff rusts; houses crumble; health and youth fade away. Even relationships.
Every relationship ends. Death, divorce, distance, disagreement … Seasons turn; the flower fades; the grass withers; the kids throw away your treasures.
Talents and gifts don’t go away unless something assaults the brain, but the context of their use is transitory. Arthritis cripples the artisan’s hands. Job loss, relocation, new discoveries in the field, rapidly changing technology, and shifts in familial dynamics are only a few of the plethora of life events that necessitate a shift in the way and context we use our giftedness.
Self also changes. We grow, learn, deconstruct, rebuild, clarify. I am not who I was ten years ago. (Thank God.)
Clinging to people, clinging to things, clinging to investments, clinging to self, or clinging to the context of our talents is not only a fool’s errand (cling as you might, none of it will last), but is also a sure way to lose your soul.
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone wants to follow in my footsteps he must give up all right to himself, take up his cross and follow me. For the man who wants to save his life will lose it; but the man who loses his life for my sake will find it. For what good is it for a man to gain the whole world at the price of his own soul? What could a man offer to buy back his soul once he had lost it?
Missionary Jim Elliott is reported to have said, “A man is not a fool to give up that which he cannot keep in order to keep that which he cannot lose.”
The one thing, the only thing, you cannot lose is Jesus.
When she first became aware he was alive, Mary of Magdala grasped Jesus with all her strength, as if to say, “You got away from me once; you won’t get away again.” The gentle smile said, “No need to cling to me, Mary; you can never lose me; I will never leave you; now I am with you always.”
Let go. The beautiful lightness of being awaits. That is true freedom.
Matthew 16:24-26. The New Testament in Modern English by J. B Phillips copyright © 1960, 1972 J. B. Phillips. Administered by The Archbishops’ Council of the Church of England. Used by Permission.