I just finished reading one of the more thought-provoking and helpful books I’ve read in some time (and I do read a lot of books). It’s Peter Scazerro’s book The Emotionally Healthy Leader.
This book reads differently from many on leadership. I highly recommend this book as an antidote to the celebrity-focused, workaholic, ministry-by-volume approach too often championed today. The response to such an attitude of workaholism is not sloth, but surrender; spending more time with God and less time just doing stuff.
Our Lord surrendered to the Father’s will, and in his three year ministry he seemed to have plenty of time to accomplish a lot and to get away for rest and refreshment in prayer and solitude. Scazerro reminds me of this balance.
There’s a section in the book I want to quote below. While the idea is simple and hardly new, the approach Scazerro offers has helped me. I still struggle with this.. I’m a recovering control freak who has recently, intentionally made some choices with outcomes as of yet beyond my control and beyond my level of comfort. The result: the Lord is taking me to the School of Indifference, taking me to the end of myself in ways that are not very comfortable but are extremely powerful. Read his words (emphasis added):
My goal in preparing my heart for planning and decision making is to remain in a state Ignatius of Loyola referred to as indifference. By indifference, he does not mean apathy or disinterest. He simply means we must become indifferent to anything but the will of God. Ignatius taught that the degree to which we are open to any outcome or answer from God is the degree to which we are ready to really hear what God has to say. If we are clutching or overly attached to one outcome versus another, we won’t hear God clearly. Our spiritual ears will be deafened by the racket of our disordered loves, fears, and attachments. In such a state, it is almost a forgone conclusion that we will confuse our will with God’s will. Ignatius considered this state of indifference to be spiritual freedom. If we are truly free, he argued, we wouldn’t worry about whether we are healthy or sick, rich or poor. It shouldn’t even matter whether we have a long life or a short one.
We place our life in God’s hands and trust him for the outcome. Admittedly, no one wants to be sick or die young, but his point is that what we do, where we go, or who we see are determined by God’s leadings, not our external circumstances. What is more important than all these things is choosing to love and obey God out of the love he offers us and the world. Arriving at this place of interior indifference and trusting that God’s will is good —no matter the outcome —is no small task. We are attached to all kinds of secondary things —titles, positions, honors, places, persons, security, and the opinions of others. When these attachments are excessive, they become disordered attachments, or disordered loves, that push God out of the center of our life and become core to our identity.
What this means for me is that I pray for indifference so I can pray the prayer of indifference. Every day, I pray for the grace to honestly say, Father, I am indifferent to every outcome except your will. I want nothing more or less than your desire for what I do. And I pray for both daily. If I fail to engage in this necessary heart preparation —praying the prayer for indifference and the prayer of indifference —I run the risk of missing God’s voice.*
This is another way of saying when God speaks what we do next reveals what we really believe about him. In a world of comfortableness and consumerism, this can be a challenge. I’m committed to growing in indifference to any plans other than the Lord’s in the coming days. I hope you will as well.
*Peter Scazerro, The Emotionally Healthy Leader (Zondervan, 2015), 195.