A handful of years ago, I came across the Ignatian practice of holy indifference. The pursuit of holy indifference desires nothing more than for the will of God to emerge in any given situation. It is the laying down of my agenda, my fear, my desires, and all of my great ideas in order to participate in what God wants to do.
And like most disciplines, it’s not easy and requires an element of raw vulnerability.
At his point of crises, Jesus retreats to a garden in the dark of night. He knows his earthly future looks bleak. He knows there is something bigger happening behind the scenes. He knows that his only faithful response is to yield in humility to what the Father is doing.
But, let’s be honest, he’s terrified.
Scripture tells us that he prays so earnestly that his sweat falls like blood to the ground.
So, in the dark of night, he makes his desperate plea to God, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me.” In faith, he petitions to God. He acknowledges that God is able to take the trajectory of the situation in a different direction.
This is one of the most tender and messy pictures of Jesus’ humanity I find in Scripture. For all of the times we see Jesus in total glory—raising the dead, healing the sick, restoring humanity, being followed around by mobs of doting followers—this is a time we find him utterly vulnerable and alone.
This is the point in Scripture when our hero becomes just a man, trembling in a garden, holding an all-night prayer vigil in hopes that there will be a turn in the story.
But, he doesn’t end with this one plea. To end here would be to declare, “God, I think I have a better plan if you’re willing to go along with it.” It would be to shut the door to the imagination of God.
Rather, on the heels of his last chance suggestion, Jesus submits, “Yet not my will, but yours be done.”
This, my friends, is holy indifference.
It is the point when I say…
Even if this is not the path I have any desire to walk on, Your will be done.
Even if it means laying down all of my grand plans, Your will be done.
Even if the way through hurts, Your will be done.
Even if my pride is put in check, Your will be done.
Even if I think there might be a slightly better way to reach the same goal, Your will be done.
Holy indifference refuses to end with my limited imagination and opens the door for a more masterful plan to unfold… A resurrection kind of plan. This is the kind of plan that the human mind is simply incapable of comprehending.
As a pastor, most days are glory and garden days…
At 10am, the glory of God is on display. The Holy Spirit gives me just the right word at just the right moment to bring encouragement. After a short time of prayer, someone is healed from their pain. The e-mail comes in affirming my leadership. Vision is flowing. And I am in the zone.
Then, noon strikes… and so does the garden. The text comes through that the surgery didn’t go as planned. An unexpected visitor stops by to get something off their chest. A quick glance at the church bank account… hmmm, that’s not going to work. Vision dies. And I run into the darkness where I question and wonder and ask if there’s another way.
I’d like to say that I transition into “Not my will, but Yours be done” as smoothly as Jesus. I’d like to say I reach this place of holy indifference without a bunch of kicking and screaming. I’d like to say that I don’t get defensive, angry, or dejected… That I don’t whine, beg, and get cynical. But, honestly, it takes me a few minutes… eh hem… or days.
My turnaround time could be better.
But, when I do get to this point– when I finally come to the end of myself and desire for nothing more than the will of God– I get to access resources for help that my own imagination lacks.
In the garden, we are told that after Jesus prays, God sends an angel from heaven to strengthen him. Jesus suggests that God remove from him the burden (limited imagination), but God sees fit to strengthen and help him to stay the course with helpers along the way (resources from heaven).
With the strength and power of God on my side, I can then lay down my will. I can cease my counter arguments. Because, it’s in this moment of holy indifference– of longing for the will of God– that resurrection hope bubbles to the surface.
It’s in this moment when a different kind of resource opens up to me to strengthen the path ahead.
No matter how anguishing the news.
No matter how harsh the comment.
No matter how bleak the outcome appears.
The hope of resurrection comes bursting forth and with it comes infinite possibilities for the power of God to be on display.
Resurrection hope… It’s a different kind of hope, is it not?
Resurrection hope recognizes that sometimes something must first die for new life to begin.
Sometimes it’s my pride.
Sometimes it’s my illusions.
Sometimes it’s my narrow understanding of how God works.
Holy indifference clings to this boundary-less kind of hope. It shatters the confines of human imagination.
God wants our prayers of faith. God wants us to pour out our hearts. God wants all of our thoughts and suggestions.
But, God also wants to blow our minds with just how capable he is to respond to us in our times of need, suffering and despair.
Today, may we not end our petitions with our limited imaginations.
May we open the door for the unadulterated will of God.
Perhaps there’s a helper on standby ready to be summoned to come to your aid?