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  • Writer's picture Brian E Pearson

Passionate Attachment

If I need to think of one person I care about, one reason to self-isolate and do my part to "flatten the curve" of COVID-19, it's our granddaughter Josephine. She's two and exploring the world with intense curiosity, increasingly with words. I'd do anything to keep her safe. When Jean and I have watched her for a day, we've felt the burden of it, even as we felt the delight. You might say we're rather "attached" to her.

This week Christians the world over will gather by video conference, on Facebook, or one way or another at a safe distance, to commemorate Jesus' death on the cross. Good Friday would be a terrible misnomer--what is "good" about a man's cruel death--except for how Christians came to regard it after the fact. It was not about the death, they said. It was about the love.

Like every good parent, God "attached" to what God created. God didn't create the world only to wander off and do something else. God continues to create the world, and continues to care for that world, even when it spurns its creator and violates the very love that brought it into existence. God remains attached to us, watching over us, working with us, enjoying us, despite our willful ways, perhaps even through those willful ways. It is the dance of every parent and every child.

For a time, on my spiritual journey, I considered the Buddhist notion of non-attachment. My pursuit of an enlightened Christianity led me to wonder if the world wouldn't be a better place if we didn't attach to it. Wouldn't we love one another better if we removed all expectations and even all hopes? If we didn't invest personally in outcomes, our own or those of others, would we not transcend winners and losers, friends and enemies, and learn to accept everyone and everything for who and what they were?

This thought held me for awhile. But my stumbling block was the cross, just as Saint Paul said it would be. It represented not cool detachment but its opposite, passionate attachment. Passion comes from the Latin word for suffering, passio. God so loved the world, we say, that God was prepared to suffer on its behalf. The cross is about as detached as a parent's love, or a grandparent's, which is to say, not at all.

The cross speaks of a radical divine attachment. Faced with their child's suffering, any parent would say the same thing: "I would willingly take on their suffering myself, if only my child might be spared." That's selfless sacrificial attachment. It's called ... love.

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