To make room for God to fill the vessel of our soul, we have to begin moving out some of the unnecessary clutter that continually accumulates there like the junk drawer in your kitchen. Everybody has a junk drawer, that black hole for car keys, pens, paper clips, gum, all the small flotsam and jetsam that accumulates over time. Our souls accumulate stuff, too, pulling it in like a magnet. And so Augustine said we must empty ourselves of all that fills us, so that we may be filled with what we are empty of. Over time I’ve found no better practice to help clear out my cluttered soul than the practice of benevolent detachment. The ability to let it go, walk away—not so much physically but emotionally, soulfully.
Allow me to explain. We are aiming for release, turning into the hands of God whatever is burdening us and leaving it there. It’s so easy to get caught up in the drama in unhealthy ways, and then we are unable to see clearly, set boundaries, respond freely. When this happens in relationships, psychologists call it enmeshment.
Mature adults have learned how to create healthy distance between themselves and the thing they have become entangled with. Thus the word “detachment.” It means getting untangled, stepping out of the quagmire; it means peeling apart the Velcro by which this person, relationship, crisis, or global issue has attached itself to you. Or you to it. Detachment means getting some healthy distance. Social media overloads our empathy. So I use the word “benevolent” in referring to this necessary kind of detachment because we’re not talking about cynicism or resignation. Benevolent means kindness. It means something done in love. Jesus invites us into a way of living where we are genuinely comfortable turning things over to him: Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly. (Matthew 11:28–30 The Message)
Now, pay attention here—Jesus said there is a way “to live freely and lightly.”