Summary: We instinctively know that clinging behaviour in an adult is not a good thing. Jesus knew that very well. He knew that the urge to cling could even cause us to lose our life. We could end up not really alive. Instead of being free in Christ, our clinging
Seeds for Sowing, Vol. IV, Issue 3, No. 20
Fifth Sunday of Lent (Year B)
April 9, 2000
The Urge to Cling
Have you ever seen a little boy clinging to his mother’s leg? He’s afraid that he’ll be left alone and he wants to make sure that his mother doesn’t get away from him. This scene may be cute or it may be annoying. It depends on your point of view. If you’re not the mother, you may think that it’s cute. If you are the mother, you may be a little annoyed. But no one gets too worried about the little kid’s behaviour because they know he will grow out of it. If he’s twenty-two and still clinging to his mother, then you may have a problem on your hands.
We instinctively know that clinging behaviour in an adult is not a good thing. Jesus knew that very well. He knew that the urge to cling could even cause us to lose our life. We could end up not really alive. Instead of being free in Christ, our clinging can make us into slaves.
Jesus tells us that unless the seed falls to the ground and dies, it remains nothing but a little seed. But if it dies, it has a chance to bring forth a great deal of fruit.
Our refusal to die to certain aspects of life shows up in our tendency to cling to things, others and self.
Clinging to Things
If we are a person who clings to things, we are easily spotted. We spend a great deal of our time shopping, or at least window shopping. We’re always talking about our last purchase or our next purchase. We know the prices of everything and can tell you, down to the last cent, how much money we have succeeded in saving. We don’t shop to live. We live to shop.
But this is only one description of the person who clings to things. Someone who has money but who never spends it on anything may be just as much a clinger. He or she can’t stand to part with a single red cent. Don’t bother asking them to help support a local charity or a poorer nation. They need all of their money and wouldn’t dream of giving any of their hard earned cash away.
It’s easy to see how these kinds of persons have become slaves. They do not have the freedom that Jesus has promised to us.
Clinging to Others
Other people cling to other people. Some people can’t stand to be alone for any length of time. They get uneasy and start looking for distractions. Often those distractions are other people. It’s true that we were made for friendship and companionship, but that doesn’t mean that we always have to surround ourselves with other people.
If we are trying to escape the feeling of being incomplete by always being with others, we are just running away from ourselves. There is a certain death involved in being alone. When we are by ourselves we have time to reflect on our lives. It is then that perhaps we can more clearly see the truth of what our lives are really like. And this is so important. Denial and illusion are the enemies of our spiritual lives. It is only by dying to our clinging to others that we can have the chance to grow as God wants us to grow.
There is a distinct danger in always being with others. If we are that kind of person, chances are that we want others to like us. In fact, we cling to this idea that everyone else must like us. We can’t stand the thought of being at odds with anyone. This kind of desire can lead us to compromise ourselves. We do what others want us to do. We say and think what others want us to say and think. In the end we are nothing but people pleasers. Our true self gets hidden. It is nowhere to be found. We are always around other people, but all other people see of us is a shadow of who we really are. We have lost ourselves.
Clinging to Self
Besides clinging to things and to other people, some of us cling to ourselves. We are so caught up with our own wants and needs that we end up a prisoner to them.
Dietrich Bonhoffer once said that when Christians face a crisis, their most frequent question is, "How can I successfully get myself out of this situation?" But that is wrong, he said. The only faithful question for Christians to ask is, "What does God require of me in this situation?" To ask the faithful question is to surrender your personal goals, perhaps even your own life as you have come to know it. If we are clinging to our own little self-made world, anything that threatens to upset that little world will be seen as bad.