There's nothing more painful than unmet expectations for your life. This is especially true when it comes to relationships.
Many months ago, I had coffee with a friend who told me the story about a dear cousin of his that stopped speaking to him one day. Cold turkey.
Though they'd grown up like brothers . . .
Though they'd celebrated life's biggest milestones together like their 40th birthday parties only a couple of years before . . .
Though he thought they'd play golf together until they could barely walk . . .
One day it all stopped. All the texting. All the phone calls. All the planned visits. No more.
You can imagine the agony that this separation brought my friend, especially as his efforts at reconciliation weren't received. And the questions, especially the late night questions.
"What did I do wrong?"
"What can I do to make it better?"
"Why would he treat me like this!?!"
So much grief flowed from his heart. I felt so sad with him about it all.
But then, recently I saw this same friend again. He was still grieved his cousin's absence, but it wasn't all consuming like used to be.
I asked why. He said one word.
[Detachment: the act or process of separating]
It's such a harsh word, so I inquired more. I knew how much he adored his cousin. How could he say this?
But he offered: "Oh, I'm learning that I can't make the old times come back again. But . . . I can wish him well, even pray for him when his name comes to mind. I can be thankful for all that our relationship was, even if it isn't now what I want. I can still love him. But I have to let him go."
As he spoke, peace beamed through his face. You could tell he'd laid the burden down. My friend was drinking deep from the wisdom of detachment. I was in awe of his courage!
I came home from our meeting and found favorite books on the topic of detachment, Awareness: the Perils and Opportunity of Reality by Anthony DeMello. [I read Awareness several years ago when I found myself stuck in pain that didn't seem to go away and it helped me so much].
I curled up on the couch I re-read this passage:
“Perfect love casts out fear. Where there is love, there are no demands, no expectations, no dependency. I do not demand that you make me happy; my happiness does not lie in you. If you were to leave me, I will not feel sorry for myself; I enjoy your company immensely, but I do not cling.”
I have to admit that when I first starting reading passages like this from DeMello's, I felt angry.
His straightforward style felt off-putting to my "help others be happy" way of pastoring and living. And I even protested to my friend who gave me the book: "Isn't attachment a healthy part of love?" (And it is! But not the only kind of love).
Yet, the longer I read about detachment, the healthier it felt to me as a practice. Why? Because DeMello is right. Love does not cling. For no relationship is ever static. Sometimes space is necessary in even the closest of connections.
Doesn't 1 Corinthians tell us that Love is patient? Love is kind and Love isn't self-seeking.
But so often we love to be loved. We love to receive. We love to be happy. So maybe this is why detachment is a spiritual practice.
Sure, we cherish those most important to us.
Sure, we keep an open door of welcome for any who would be a part of our lives.
Sure, we try to mend fences when hurt occurs.
But we let people go. We let them go because holding on tight does no good for their soul or ours. We let them go not because we've stopped loving them but because we've learned to love them more!
And as we do, we trust them one who is Love-- to be with them and to be with us.
Here's one of detachment's gifts: our relationship needs will be met too as we learn to live in the present!