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Monday, September 27, 2010

What I'm Reading Today: Genesis 21-23

I was blessed to attend a seminary (The Iliff School of Theology in Denver, CO) that had a variety of faith traditions represented on campus. In addition to the usual assortment of mainline Protestants, there were Roman Catholics, Jews, Mormons, and Buddhists in attendance. This gave me insights into my studies that I would otherwise never had had if it the student population had been more homogenous.

One of my friends – Daniel – was Buddhist. Daniel introduced me on a deeper level to a Buddhist concept known as detachment. Detachment in their tradition is associated with the word renunciation – which he said means something like a determination to be free.

When I first heard about the concept, I was a little hesitant to embrace it. "Who would want to go through life without attachments or passions?" I wondered. It did NOT sound appealing. As I've grown older, I grown into a healthier realization of what Daniel might have been trying to convey. He wasn't suggesting you don't care about others or things. Rather, you aren't attached to them to the degree that if things don't go your way, you don't get completely thrown off kilter.

I could see Abraham practicing the principles of detachment in a couple places in today's reading. First, he had to practice the principle when Sarah demand that he get rid of Hagar and Ishmael since she viewed them as threats. Second, Abraham had to practice the principle of detachment when he heard God call him to sacrifice his son Isaac on a nearby mountain.

On the surface, each of those stories is incredibly disturbing since they seem to treat people like Hagar, Ishmael, and Isaac as if they were nothing more than objects that could be tossed aside at a moments notice. That's how I read the stories for years.

Because of the way Daniel enlightened me about the concept of detachment, however, I began to open myself to read the stories a little differently. I began to look at them as opportunities to love God and others so completely that you let go of the outcome of the situation/relationship. You don't let the status of those relationships with loved ones dictate your connection with God (i.e. if anything happens to so and so I would be so devastated that I would lose my faith). In other words, you achieve a level of consciousness (or God-consciousness) that has a level of stability and peace that eludes most of us who remained attached to people or things.

So how open are you to the concept of detachment? Do you see such a determination to be free as a cold way to move through the world; or do you see it as something that offers you the opportunity to open yourself to whatever unfolds without trying to control or judge it?

Til next time …

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