We don’t usually look at obscurity as a gift. But the truth is that obscurity is often the workshop in which God shapes and refines us.
Looking back, I see that obscurity allowed God to redirect my sense of identity and significance.
In her insightful book Anonymous, Alicia Britt Chole says, “From God’s perspective, anonymous seasons are sacred spaces. . . . Unapplauded, but not unproductive: hidden years are the surprising birthplace of true spiritual greatness.” This was certainly true of Jesus. We tend to forget that the stories about him reflect a very short time period. The overwhelming majority of his life was spent in total obscurity. Only for a short season was he in the public eye.
Jesus was born in Bethlehem in a smelly animal pen (followed by hidden days). He was circumcised in the temple on his eighth day (followed by hidden months). Before turning two, Jesus received a visit from Eastern wise men (followed by hidden years). At the age of twelve he teaches in the temple (followed by almost two entirely hidden decades).
Jesus never ran toward the spotlight. He never focused on drawing a large crowd or marketing his brand. He knew that unseen does not equal unimportant. Let those words soak in for a moment. It’s been a long time coming, but I am learning to embrace that truth.
Here is something else I’m learning. Even if you’ve had a Susan Boyle moment where the spotlight has been on you, it doesn’t last long. The spotlight is fickle. It will always turns toward the next rising star. Even if you’re in the spotlight today, obscurity is coming again. It’s inevitable.
When the spotlight is gone, what you have left is the relationship. That’s why paying attention to your soul is so important. Someday the trappings of ministry will fade away, and what you’ll have is your relationship with Jesus. Will that be enough?
Awhile back I was on a flight with a quite elderly lady. When she got out into baggage claim, her husband was sitting on a bench waiting for her. When he saw her, he lit up like a Christmas tree. With cane in hand he moved toward her and kissed her like a newlywed. It was awesome.
I don’t know what kind of life this couple has shared. They might have had a successful business. They could have made a lot of money. They might have been famous for all I know.
But now they’re in their twilight years. Their looks have faded. Their physical strength is diminished. Their step has significantly slowed. There was no fanfare upon her return. No limo, no media, no spotlight. There was just one person to greet her, but it was the one person with whom she’d shared her life. They have each other, and that’s enough.
In that moment that she stepped into the baggage claim area, obscurity didn’t matter. Relationship did.
Someday the trappings of ministry will fade away. We’ll move out of the office. We won’t have a business card or a title. The spotlight will turn to someone else. But if we’ve been sharing our life with Jesus, obscurity won’t matter. The relationship will.
If you’re in a time of obscurity now, I want to gently remind you that God has not forgotten you. Even though you might be hidden from the world, you are not hidden from him. Allow this anonymous season to deepen rather than discourage you. Don’t chase after the spotlight; chase after the relationship.
The following prayer names what has often been in my heart and helps me embrace my obscurity.
Today I still long so much for honor, I am so pleased with myself, so rooted in my nature. I am pleased when others ask for my opinion, when I am made to feel I am needed, when people know that I am clever, talented and popular. I am glad when I am friends with everyone, when I can share what is in my heart, when I can shine.
But Lord Jesus, you were a servant of all. Today I surrender all desire to be great; I renounce all pleasure I take in being important.
So, if you are in a season of obscurity, let me encourage you to recalibrate your perspective. Today, choose to see obscurity as a gift and as a place where God does some of His best work.