In writing about the divine love of God, Saint Teresa of Avila wrote, “But if we do what we can to avoid becoming attached to any earthly thing and let all our care and concern be with heavenly things, and if within a short time we prepare ourselves completely, as some of the saints did, I believe without a doubt that in a very short time this blessing will be given to us.”
Saint Teresa is not alone in that viewpoint. Reading the lives of the saints or their own writings, it can seem like they are against the physical world. They speak out against filling our hearts with items of this world, yet to those of us still living in it, trying to be divorced from the everyday seems impossible. Perhaps because we have a close bond to the things of this world, it is that bond which keeps us from seeing and understanding the truth of what the saints are saying.
I think I am getting a glimpse of this in my current situation. Now that my home is freshly painted a bland color and a sizable portion of my belongings are in storage, it seems less of my home and just a place I’m living. It’s familiar enough not to completely feel like a hotel, but I’m no longer attached to it as I once was. I don’t know how long I’ll be living in this state and the only way I can describe it is: detached. I appreciate the familiarity I have with it, as well as the shelter and space it provides me to live. I do not feel comfortable claiming as my own anymore; it does not feel like mine.
What if we changed our viewpoint? What if we no longer considered things as something to be owned? What if we lived, appreciating everything that allows us to live without becoming attached to them as if we owned them? How would our lives be different? Would we be able to see other people as fellow children of God and reach out to help those in need? Would our actions be more carefully taken, so not to damage the space and items provided to us on a daily basis? If we treat others and the world around us with more reverence and appreciation of being God’s creation, that sounds very much like a participation in the divine Love.
God made the world, all that is in it, and declared it good. The physical world is not a bad thing, but the idea of ownership of things can distract us from a full relationship with God. He calls us to participate in life, not fill it with things that do not satisfy us so that we no longer recognize Him. For me it apparently was what I thought was my home, for another it could be something else, or some other relationship. It can be painful and scary to detach ourselves from these things we think we own. But if we look to the wise words of the saints, what will fill those empty spots will be the blessing of God’s love. Sounds like a good trade off to me.