Tuesday, May 28, 2024

A Prayer Tree and A Holy Indifference

Image result for johnpiippo solitude
(Walking through trees in my backyard)

When we lived in East Lansing one of my prayer places was thirty feet up in a tall pine tree in a forest preserve. The branches formed a ladder leading upward. It was an easy climb to the two thick branches that formed a seat. Many times I climbed that tree, hung my backpack on a branch, sat on that natural seat, and prayed. I loved when there was a slight wind that gently waved the tree from side to side. I would close my eyes and think of the Holy Spirit, shaping and forming me.

During that time I wore a leather wristband I had made. On the wristband I burned the words "A holy indifference." I got the phrase from Henri Nouwen. Nouwen prayed that he would have a holy indifference to the opinions of others, so that he might have a holy concentration on God. 

This word was for me, too. If I had a holy indifference I would be able to more purely love people. I would not go up and down with what others thought of me. I would be free from people-pleasing, and striving to gain others' love and avoid others' criticism. 

I had been doing too much of that. The result was much outward striving and agitation in my heart. So, I carved "a holy indifference" on a leather band, wore it on my wrist, climbed a tree, and prayed. 

One day, as I was in the praying tree, God told me to take off the wristband and tie it around a branch. I felt I could let it go. God was doing a good thing in me. I was moving into greater freedom, from pleasing people to loving people.

That was forty years ago. Sometimes I think of going back to the praying tree, climbing it one more time, and touching the leather wristband which has now become part of the tree. I'm writing "a holy indifference" on a 3X5 card and carrying it with me today. I'm commemorating t
he freedom God brought into my life many years ago, while swaying high in the praying tree. 

Is it possible to hear from God? I've written about this in Chapter 5 of my book Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God.