So if you follow this blog you know that I am looking for a job. I recently applied for a job that sounds like a great fit for me, one that I really want; I feel like I submitted a strong application but have not yet been contacted. I have other applications in the works as well. After the hard work of crafting the resume and cover letter, comes the waiting. So I have been telling people that I have been practicing waiting patiently and not being attached to outcome. Suddenly it dawned on me "why can't I be attached to the outcome?" What's wrong with acknowledging that I really want a particular position or that I am passionate about a particular place?
I have been thinking that I have to practice non-attachment - that it is the spiritually and emotionally healthy response. In some cases probably yes non attachment is key. For example, letting go of what happens at a workplace or other situation that I have chosen to leave. It is key to a healthy leaving that I practice letting go completely including if they start doing things in a way that I disagree with or isn't what I would have done. Maybe even more key is that if they stop doing something that I was particularly attached to in the situation - a particular event or ministry than I can't be ranting and raving or even just feeling like I must not have been valued. Here practicing non-attachment means that I let go, affirm that I did good work and let the place and me move forward in new ways.
Yet when I have committed to being in a place or to a task then practicing non-attachment holds little to no appeal. Beyond it not being appealing, I am not good at it. I realized that I am very attached to the outcome. I need and want a new job. I want to be putting my gifts and skills to work in the world and I want to support my family. My job is a key piece of making our family work. I am ready to dive into something new. I want to take my passion and help meet the world's deep need.
I know there is wisdom in the "don't be attached outcome." After all I have done what I can, I submitted the strongest application I can and I have been working hard to find connections and network with people. So in many ways there is wisdom in letting go and hoping for the best. Yet it just feels wrong for me somehow. I am a passionate person - when I commit myself to something, I commit all in. In fact it is when I stop being passionate, when I stop caring about the outcome, that I know it is time (sometimes even past time) to move on. In fact in order for me to put my best self forward, in order to generate the necessary energy to write cover letters and network with people, particularly those I don't know well, requires that I be fully vested in the process and outcome - I have to want it!
As a spiritual practice I deeply relate to the people in the Hebrew Scriptures who demand that God take action, get involved, not leave them hanging. I love the Psalms because there you find the whole range of human emotion. There are other wonderful stories as well. Who can forget Job who basically calls God out for his suffering? I even love Jonah who runs away rather than answer God's call to preach to Nineveh - that doesn't really work out for Jonah in the end but I love that he tries that. The Psalms are filled with the passionate prayers of people who are clearly very attached to the outcome. Let's look at part of Psalm 4 - "Answer me, when I call, O God, my vindicator!" (Psalm 4:2 JPS* translation) Hardly a non-attachment to outcome request; Answer Me! begins the prayer. Or another Psalm 35 - here the Psalmist is being very clear with God about what is desired "O Lord, strive with my adversaries, give battle to my foes, take up shield and buckler, and come to my defense; ready the spear and the javelin against my pursuers; tell me, 'I am your deliverance.'" (Psalm 35:-3, JPS translation) and it continues with this very specific litany of what is desired.
So I am no longer practicing not being attached to outcome. I am leaning into my passion. I want to see where it might take me, what courage might it give me that I might not have otherwise. In my prayer life, I may continue to pray for patience (mostly because spinning with frustration is counterproductive) but I am going to follow the example in the Psalms and get a bit more pushy in my prayer. I want this, hear me, answer me, I am ready, Listen to me. I trust that I will be heard. I may not get the answer I expect but I won't stop speaking up. I won't stop asking. I won't stop praying.
What are you praying for right now? What helps you through the waiting? What has your own prayer and spiritual path taught you about waiting, wanting and attachment?
*This is a Jewish translation and found in the JPS translation of the Tanakah.