“Follow me,” Jesus said to him, and Levi got up, left everything, and followed him (Luke 5:27-28).
There’s a difference between giving something up and having it taken from you.
Between relinquishing and being robbed.
Between opening your hands and having your fingers pried open.
This is not to say that one is easy and pleasant while the other is difficult and painful. Any and all of the above can be excruciating.
At the risk of oversimplifying, it seems that the difference is what is happening inside of us, you might even say happening in the soul. To give something up or to relinquish it suggests a willing participation in the loss. Even if the loss is hard, we yield to it. We accept what is happening.
To have something taken from us feels more like a violation and we resist it. We fight it tooth and nail, and in the aftermath of the loss we often carry around a resentment or bitterness or some kind of wound that might take a long while to get over.
These days it seems like all of us are having to deal with both.
Where Do You Find Your Peace?
There have been plenty of things that we’ve relinquished. All of us have familiar routines that have been interrupted. We probably don’t like it – but we yield ourselves to the loss because we understand that the stakes are high. Gathering for Sunday worship tops this list for me.
But plenty of people are being robbed. I think particularly of those who are losing livelihood and income. That’s a hard thing to yield to. If that’s you, you may not have a choice, and perhaps eventually you make your way to ‘yielding.’ But that’s a long and arduous journey. I think also of my college senior son (and all seniors for that matter). The way it looks now there probably won’t be a graduation. I can honestly say he’s far from yielded in that matter
Whether we are facing these days yielding or kicking and screaming, there’s something our varied losses have in common, whatever they are. They have exposed our attachments, surgically laying bare what we cherish and cling to for comfort and security and a sense that we’re ok. Maybe what we’re seeing is that some of our attachments go deeper than others.
Is Jesus Enough?
When Jesus found Levi at his tax booth and invited him to “follow me,” Levi got up and “left everything” in response to that call. That’s a remarkable statement, made without commentary or explanation, almost an off-handed observation. We noted that the same kind of radical relinquishing also marked the call of Peter and Andrew, James, and John.
And as we saw yesterday, Matthew (Levi) doesn’t go with Jesus hesitantly, digging his heels in the ground as Jesus pulls him from his tax booth. No, Matthew walks away from a financially secure career and then throws a diner party for Jesus, inviting former colleagues and associates. Sinners and tax collectors all.
After the party, things get really interesting. If Matthew expected a road to glory with a celebrity rabbi, he got fast reality check. Luke’s narrative tells us that after the call of Matthew Jesus runs into repeated conflict with the religious leaders of his day.
Why does he eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners? (5:30)
Hey, Jesus . . . Why don’t you and your disciples fast? (5:33)
Hey, Jesus . . . Why do your disciples do what is unlawful on the sabbath by plucking heads of grain? (6:1)
Hey, Jesus . . . how can you heal that man’s withered hand on the Sabbath? (6:7).
Things never get much better. What Matthew signed up for soon led to the crucifixion of Jesus (this is Lent remember). But also, his resurrection. An early church tradition tells us that Matthew himself took the gospel message to Ethiopia and other part of Africa where he himself ended up dying a martyr’s death.
Matthew’s story, his very life, reflects his deepest attachment. Everything else paled in comparison to following Jesus.
Naming our Losses, Claiming our Hope
Simple question for you today: What has our collective experience, and the details of your own life right now, revealed about your attachments?
What have you had to yield? What has been taken from you?
I have to confess that these days have made me come to grips with some of my own attachments – the things that give me my sense of well-being. They’re not all very spiritual, sad to say. I’m a creature of habit. I’m used to abundance, finding what I want almost anytime I want it. Bare shelves and dashed plans have a way of getting me anxious and antsy.
I’m helped and challenged by Matthew. His example tells me that Jesus is enough. I want to wake up every day and live every moment knowing that, holding to Jesus as the deepest and all-sufficient attachment of my soul.
I want that for you too.
So yes, name your losses. Grieve what needs to be grieved. Let’s not pretend this is all just fine. But let’s pray to become the kind of people who could “leave everything” to know and serve the one from whom all blessings flow.
Gracious God, we often confuse your gifts with you the giver, setting our hearts on lesser things as the source of our joy and peace. Forgive us. As we honestly face our losses, we will not cling to things that were never meant to give us real life. We will live this day thankful for the blessings you give us and devoted to you in glad trust. Guide us we pray, in the name of your son Jesus. Amen.
One thought on “Our Attachments Exposed”
Such beautiful insight, Mark – thank you for your loving and courageous writing. What an amazing gift it is to think of everything – both positive & negative- in a spiritual context, and be able to communicate it so powerfully.
xo, Bonnie & Steve