Friday, February 28, 2014


"I wonder if you would consider teaching a course on leadership for French women in ministry."

The woman on the phone was a total stranger to me, but she had heard about me from the president of our denomination in France.

She went on to describe her ministry and her vision for training and equipping Christian women for kingdom work. I enjoyed our conversation and I have tremendous respect for her project.

I told her I would pray about it.

She had heard about me...

A few years back, I would have jumped at the opportunity--even though my French was not at a level that could have supported such an endeavor.

A few years back I would have been been wild with excitement--even though my philosophy of leadership was undefined and only partially proven.

A few years back I would have been fantastically flattered--even though such a request has very little to do with me and everything to do with God.

But the main feeling that I had when I hung up the phone was indifference.

Indifference. It used to be a bad word to me, something akin to apathy, nonchalance, or aloofness. But I have been studying St. Ignatius and his teaching on indifference and now I have a whole new appreciation for the word and the concept.

Indifference, as Ignatius explains, is freedom from any inordinate attachments, including my desire to do certain things, to gain certain things, or even to be known for certain things. Instead, I am indifferent to all things save one--the person of Jesus Christ. His desires become mine, his will becomes mine.
Therefore, we must make ourselves indifferent to all created things, as far as we are allowed free choice and are not under any prohibition. Consequently, as far as we are concerned,we should not prefer health to sickness, riches to poverty, honor to dishonor, a long life to a short life. The same holds for all other things. --Ignatius
These ideas are firmly rooted in scripture. Job said, "shall we accept good from God, but not trouble?" Asaph wrote a Psalm that declares, " My flesh and  heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever." John the Baptist insisted, "He must become greater; I must become less." And even Jesus prayed, "Not my will, but yours be done."

As long as I cling to an agenda of my own, my service of the Lord is handicapped and self-serving. Until I can truly sing, "I surrender all" and mean it, I am a wayward disciple, looking back from the plow. Even though I have been sincere and well meaning, I have spent years in ministry expecting God to bless my honest efforts. It wasn't so much that I wasn't seeking the Lord's guidance. I was. But I was also cherishing my own desires. I wanted to do things a certain way, using certain gifts, and receiving certain recognition. I cringe to confess these truths!

Moving to a foreign country and having to restart at ground zero revealed many of my inordinate attachments. As each one surfaced, I had a decision to make. Would I cling to it or release it? In releasing my attachments I began to learn about indifference.

Indifference does not mean that I don't care about anything, it means that I care so deeply about the desires of God that I am indifferent to all else by comparison. It means, for example,  that I am not going to fret about the financial strain of our most recent flood. In indifference I welcome unexpected financial loss as freely as I would welcome unexpected financial gain, trusting God to do his work in either circumstance. Easier said than done; yet, powerful when achieved!

If I believe that God is good and that he is sovereign (which I do) I can freely  honor his desires as I learn to be indifferent to all else. I have a long way to go towards indifference, but I am beginning to grasp it. To glimpse it. And to sometimes experience it.

That was the case with this ministry opportunity. I love encouraging leaders. But I no longer have to encourage leaders. I don't need the teaching position to feel important. I don't seek another accomplishment to write on my resume. Neither do I need to say "no" to assert my indifference, for it's possible that God may desire for me to say, "yes." If I do it, it's for God's glory. If I don't, it's for God's glory.

I'm learning that anytime I feel driven, anytime I feel needy, anytime I feel slighted or overlooked, I am most likely dealing with an inordinate attachment in my life. This is how I discover the places where God may be calling me to indifference. It goes against my flesh, which screams for attention, comfort, and validation.

But when I grasp the depths of the father's love for me, the riches of the Gospel, and the call of the kingdom, I can happily take or leave anything this world has to offer. All my life I've sung a hymn that proclaims the indifference that I am only just beginning to see worked into the reality of my life:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in his wonderful face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of his glory and grace!

May we learn to live this truth!