What can I not live without?

Attachments are a common part of our daily lives. A baby forms an attachment with its mother in the early weeks of its life, a child forms an attachment with another when they spend time together in the playground, people can form attachments to those they work alongside, or to the city they live in or the climate they prefer.

However, attachments can stymie our spiritual growth when we become dependent on them or hold them too tightly, unwilling to let them go, believing that we can’t live without them. When this happens, an attachment has become our source of security, our source of self-esteem, our sense of worth, our measure of success. When an attachment has become the solid rock on which we stand, it has then taken the place that God wants to take within us.
Unhealthy attachments will be different for each of us and we can identify them by asking ourselves: “What is it I believe I can’t live without or I fear losing?” Perhaps it might be something physical, such as a particular person, or a home, a living location (city/region/country), a job or money. It may be good health and bodily function. Or maybe it’s something more conceptual, such as a position of authority or popularity or prestige.

Woman Prayer Landscape

When we believe we can’t live without that particular thing, we hold tightly to it and anything that threatens that firm grip will cause us anxiety. Like a bull in a china shop, that anxiety can create interior havoc if not attended to, identified, recognised and named for what it is and surrendered to the Lord. Fear of losing that attachment, consciously or subconsciously, drives decision making, as our decisions will be directed toward the path that keeps that attachment secure within our grasp. Such decision making, then, directly affects our behaviour and we become slaves to that very thing we can’t bear to lose. In that interior space we are not truly free.

True freedom is found when we trust that God will provide all that is needed and can sincerely pray as St Ignatius of Loyola prayed: “I want and I choose what better leads to God’s deepening life in me” (Contemporary translation by David Fleming of St Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercise 23). In our desire for true freedom, we might pray: “If marriage will bring God’s deepening life in me, may I be married. If singleness will better lead to God’s deepening life in me, may I be single.

If sickness or poverty or difficulty might better lead to God’s deepening life in me, let it be, Lord.” When we can choose the Lord above all other things, there is freedom. Then, we are truly free to go where God leads without fear of what we might lose as a result. We can then join Mary in responding “be it done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).

Take some time now to contemplate what you believe you can’t live without.

by Kirsten Challies, Spiritual Director
on behalf of Whakakōingo o te Ngākau: The Yearning Heart, the Diocesan Spiritual Directors’ Group

Published in Inform Issue 141 - Winter 2024