Indifference is a word that has negative connotations to me. It suggests apathy; an unfeeling disconnect toward someone or something. For a big time feeler, that is the antithesis of how I live and relate to the world. I feel deeply. I’m rarely indifferent.
During Lent and this particular time in my life, I’m learning something about the virtue of indifference—holy indifference as taught by the 15th century Spanish priest, St. Ignatius of Loyola. Ignatius instructed Christ followers to be “active” in their pursuit of God and his will and “indifferent” to the outcome of his will. Yea, right….
Sounds like a stretch to me, especially as it relates to our dream of starting an urban retreat center in Indianapolis (SFI). We put a “For Sale” sign in the front yard in September and started looking for a suitable property. Neither goal has been achieved and I don’t feel indifferent about it.
Frankly, we are exhausted. With multiple showings on any given day or week, we are constantly cleaning, vacating our home (with dog in tow) and crashing at a local coffee shop to work. We question how long we can keep this up.
But sometimes it’s the small adjustments of heart that make a difference.
Through a friend, I was reminded of St. Ignatius’ teaching about holy indifference and began to read and contemplate its meaning for me during this trying time. Holy or active indifference suggests that we energetically do what we can to pursue God’s path, but entrust God with the outcome. We embrace the deep and true desires of our heart, but remain “detached” from their ultimate fulfillment.
Here’s an illustration that comes to mind. During my last two pregnancies, I had a condition called placenta accreta where the placenta attached too deeply to the uterine wall. After I delivered the baby, the placenta wouldn’t detach and had to be removed surgically, causing excessive bleeding—scary stuff.
Similarly, I create an unhealthy condition of soul when I attach too deeply to my dreams or visions of life; to certain relationships or things. That attachment can crowd out my affection for God and impair the freedom he longs for me to experience.
This way of holy indifference doesn’t come naturally to me. I have an addictive nature. I want to cling to things that promise fulfillment. I feel wobbly as I find my way in the tension of active indifference; doing what I can while holding my desires loosely. Yet, this small adjustment of heart seems very healthy and right. It also seems well-suited for Lent--a time when I walk with Jesus in his humanity, suffering and surrender to the cross.