“No”vember: The Discipline of Detachment
A time to rest and receive revelation from the Lord
I wrote this blog for a contemplative prayer group I’m part of in Omaha called Selah. Learn more at SelahOmaha.com.
Recently I realized (thanks to my habit of journaling) a pattern in my life: I have an emotional meltdown every November. It’s a season that sparks introspection and serves as a stark reminder: Another year has passed … and still no breakthrough. Some of my prayers and desires are still (seemingly) unanswered.
Sensing an invitation from the Lord, I decided to take a two-month social media sabbatical to finish out this year. These online spaces can be a blessing but also the source of so much noise, distraction, and addiction. Scrolling steals my time, drains my energy, and hinders intimacy with those in my (unmediated) life who matter most.
There’s value in saying “no” to certain comforts, habits, and activities for a period of time. Letting go opens an opportunity for radical reorientation of our lives. Jesus said to his disciples in Luke 9:24, “If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.”
Here’s how Adele Ahlberg Calhoun defines the spiritual discipline of detachment:
Detachment looks like letting go of lesser things so we can cling to God. It’s about saying “no” to competing priorities so we can say “yes” to what’s most important. It’s about fully pursuing the one thing that truly matters: living in God’s presence, fully fixated on his beauty and glory (see Psalm 27:4).
Wrestling with God
I’m gripped by the account of Jacob wrestling with God in Genesis 32. Wrestling demands your full attention, mentally and physically. It’s up close and intimate, ill-suited for the half-hearted. If you don’t go all in, you’re going to lose the match.
Before Jacob’s big contest, he parted with his household and possessions. He crossed a river called Jabbok — a word that means “emptying.” Jacob in a sense emptied himself, detaching from his wives, children, and riches, while he stayed alone overnight in a camp across the river. In this solitary place, a man approached Jacob and the two wrestled until dawn.
What really strikes me about this mysterious story is that Jacob would not let go. He was clinging to God, contending for a blessing (see Genesis 32:26). I believe the only reason Jacob could contend — and win — was because he had already emptied himself. His hands were open. His attention was undivided. As a result, he saw the Lord face to face … and lived to tell the story. This midnight match was a marking moment that changed the course of Jacob’s life (and the way he walked) forever.
November coincides with the Hebrew month of Cheshvan. It’s the only month on God’s calendar without any feasts or holidays. Jewish tradition teaches that it’s a month “reserved” for the time of Messiah. What a wonderful invitation for the body of Christ. Right now is an opportune time to clear your calendar and reserve special time to spend with Jesus.
Knowing God’s prophetic calendar helps us discern the times and seasons. November is a time to rest and receive revelation from the Lord. We must intentionally be still and say “no” to distractions so we can hear God’s gentle whispers. He delights in giving us fresh vision and hope for our future, especially in dark times.
Blessing + Breakthrough
The intention of my social media sabbatical is to create more space. Rather than distracting myself and numbing out, I want to press in and wrestle with the God of Jacob. It’s in the emptying, letting go, and saying “no” that I am free and focused enough to uncover unhealthy patterns and contend for the blessings that only he can give.
This November God has turned my meltdown into a breakthrough. He’s willing and able to do the same for you, too. God loves and longs to bless his people. In fact, here are God’s very own words from Numbers 6:
“The Lord bless youNumbers 6:24-26 (NIV)
and keep you;
The Lord make his face shine on you
and be gracious to you;
the Lord turn his face toward you
and give you peace.”
You can find this article and explore more resources to nurture your relationship with the Lord at SelahOmaha.com.
Have a happy Thanksgiving!