Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Indifference Comes Before Discernment and Wisdom

Maumee Bay Stae Park, Ohio

There is a pine tree in a forest preserve outside Lansing, Michigan, that I used to pray in. The branches formed a natural ladder. I would climb thirty feet up, sit on a branch, feel the wind swaying the tree, and pray.

I had made a leather wristband, and burned these words on it: "a holy indifference." By this I meant: indifferent to everything except what God wants for me and says to me.

Ruth Haley Barton writes: 

"Mary, the mother of Jesus, is a model of what it means to be indifferent. Her prayer “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word” (Luke 1:38) is will  a wonderful expression of the kind of indifference we are talking about here." (Barton, Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership: Seeking God in the Crucible of Ministry, p. 202)

If we don't have a holy indifference we should not expect to hear much from God. Without indifference "the discernment process becomes little more than a rigged election!" (Ib.) This is because our agendas compete with the voice of God, which rarely matches our agendas.

"Indifference is an important prerequisite to the prayer for wisdom, because the wisdom of God is often the foolishness of this world; indifference to matters of our own ego, in particular, prepares us to receive this gift." (Ib., 203)

I tied the leather wristband around a limb in 1985. thirty-three years ago! I was learning holy indifference. On occasion I thought of going back and trying to find that tree. Perhaps it is no longer standing. If so, I'm sure the wristband has become the tree. Perhaps a holy indifference has become me.

My two books are:

Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God