The Place of Hiddenness

“Value hiddenness, and look for every opportunity to serve.”

I heard Bill Johnson say this several years ago.  Bill has authored some of my favorite books and is the pastor of Bethel Church in Redding, CA.  God has used this man to speakinto my life in a tremendous way.  This quote comes from a Q and A session he was having at a church event.  Someone had asked him how he would counsel a person who is currently doing what feels like menial work/ministry when he/she feels called to do much bigger things.  “Value hiddenness, and look for every opportunity to serve” was his response.

Wow. His words struck me so deeply. I’ve never forgotten them.

And now, years later, I’m hearing the Father whisper this to me once again.

Not simply to submit to hiddenness, but to value it.  To engage in the daily, mundane details of my life with a posture of worship.  To wait with contentment on the greater things He’s placed in my heart. To rest in the Father’s acceptance rather than seeking it from people.  To invite Him to align my understanding of significance to His.

He’s opening my eyes to see the beauty of hiddenness in such sweet and unexpected ways.

And naturally, I’m seeing how this hiddenness thing flies in the face of our culture.  A culture that holds nothing sacred and gives strangers access to the inner chambers.  That tweets, instagrams, and posts anything and everything without the first thought.  And measures significance by likes, followers, “friends,” and comments.  A culture that defines success in life by the “American Dream” – that tells people to strive for money, popularity, bigger and better material possessions, power, and higher position.  And that fuels people’s drive for these goals through a competitive spirit and an obsession with what people think.

It’s nauseating.

And exhausting.

And the antithesis of the Kingdom.

Instead of striving, God invites us to rest.  Instead of promoting ourselves, He invites us into a life of hiddenness – a life He will shine on in His timing, in His way, for His glory.

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Think about Joseph in the book of Genesis.  He had a dream very early in life in which God clearly revealed to him that he was going to rise to a position of great authority.  But Joseph went through quite a few years of hiddenness before this came to pass.  And what about King David?  He was anointed as King of Israel many years before that promise actually manifested.  He went through a few decades of hiddenness – hard years that sent him running for his life and wondering where the promise was.

And Jesus.  If anyone ever got the “pass” to skip over hiddenness it should have been Jesus!  His incarnate life was only to be thirty three years, and given that He is the sinless Son of God, the natural mind would think He ought to just launch right into the spotlight from the beginning to “maximize” His time.  And yet, he was not released into His earthly ministry until He was thirty years old.

Thirty? Really, God?? You’re giving Jesus three years??? See, there’s an element of seeming wastefulness that comes with hiddenness. To the natural mind, at least.  Minds that have been trained to leverage things to our advantage, be as efficient as possible, maximize production, and pursue the spotlight can’t understand this perceived wastefulness. Can’t see the value in doing something unless other people recognize and validate it.

But the Kingdom doesn’t operate the way our world does. In the Kingdom, what is deemed by the natural man to be a waste of time and talent is actually a life poured out on the altar, a living sacrifice that is actively being transformed into the image of His Son. In the Kingdom, God plucks the humble and hidden out of obscurity and into the destined place at the moment of His choosing.  In the Kingdom, the heart is central.  A pure and refined heart is the determining factor in promotion – not natural ability, popularity, or political connectedness.

And it’s in the hidden place that the heart becomes pure and refined.  What is our attitude when no one is noticing us? How pliable are we in the hands of the Father when no obvious reward seems to be manifesting? Are we stuck on what we think our story is supposed to be or have we learned to hold our dreams with an open hand?

It’s in the hidden place where so much of the shaping and molding of our hearts occurs.  The hidden place is essential.  The hidden place is beautiful.

And I’ve noticed that God Himself often works in this hidden, unassuming way.  I remember when I was younger wishing so badly that God would just burst onto the scene in a very obvious, visible way for people who were unbelieving and reluctant to surrender.  And though God certainly is bold and fierce, Scripture is also laced from beginning to end with His “hidden,” discreet work.

11 “The Lord said, ‘Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.’  Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.” -I Kings 19: 11-13

Some translations call this a “still, small voice.” How many times does God speak in this still, small voice in our hearts rather than a booming, audible voice?

“It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, to search out a matter is the glory of kings.” -Proverbs 25:2

“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” -Mark 1:35

But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” -Matthew 6:3-6

Jesus often spoke in parables to the crowds that followed him, too. Parables purposely veil truth with mystery. Not only did he often communicate truth in ways that required deeper digging on the part of the hearer, but he was also known to purposely thin out crowds at times.  Like the time he told everyone to eat His flesh and drink His blood.  That one wasn’t a big crowd pleaser.  There was no standing ovation or cute t-shirt for that one.  Instead, many deserted Him.  He didn’t seem to mind.

This tendency of His is too significant to not have implications for us as believers.  Numbers and followership don’t seem to be high on Jesus’ priority list. Instead, truth, belief, and love were central. This is not to say that big crowds are inherently bad, but it is to say that big crowds and popularity are not the pursuit. They are the byproduct.  Jesus is our pursuit. The Father’s heart is our pursuit.  The Spirit is our pursuit.  Anything less is just some sad version of the American Dream.  And God has so much more for us than that!

“For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” -Colossians 3:3

The very deepest desires of our hearts, the very life for which we were put on this planet, our very destinies – are HIDDEN with CHRIST in God!

How do we access them? We find the secret place in His presence. We stop living our lives for people and start living unto God.

We learn to value hiddenness. And in the place of hiddenness, we find the Life for which we’ve always been searching.

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