Blessed are the peacemakers; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven;
Blessed are those who mourn; for they shall be comforted;
Blessed are the gentle; for they shall inherit the earth;
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness; for they shall be satisfied;
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy;
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God;
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God;
Blessed are you who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness; for they shall inherit the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when men revile and persecute you and say all kinds of evil against you on account of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great. ( Matthew 5: 3-12)
As I grow accustumed to the boundary walls of my home, this unprecedented season brings with it the gift of hiddenness. My job as a mom has opened up wide open before my eyes, and my investments in my children have increased exponentially. And there is very little concrete evidence to show for my blood, sweat and tears. (Yes, all of those bodily fluids have been part of this whole job description, especially since spring break).
A musician friend recently vented his frustration at himself as he has discovered that much of what he produces depends heavily upon the feedback and recognition of others. For those of us who are creatives, the immediate influx of likes on social media and instant gratification for our output spurs us on to produce more in our areas of passion and talent.
My friend, in this space of forced hiding and quarantine, is having to face the human tendency to withhold production in the absence of extrensic motivation. Intrinsic versus extrensic motivation were topics of my social psychology class during my sophomore year of college. Why do we do what we do? Because of conviction? Or because of praise and external factors that spur us onward in the face of adversity? Human motivation is a mixture, but often more driven by external factors than by internal motivation.
Many of us have been forced to dive into a season of soul-searching in the removal of extrinsic motivation. As I finally have consistently heeded the call of God to write a book over the past year, I have wrestled with the continual struggle between blogging and book-writing. I love to blog. I love to have the opportunity to pour out messages that God has placed upon my heart and immediately have the opportunity to send them out into the world. I am thankful for the community that is birthed in this activity, and it has blessed me richly. Blogging, however, sometimes feels like the “fast-food” version of writing. I throw up words on the keypad of my computer, click the exciting little pink outlined word “publish,” and suddenly start receiving feedback and conversations surrounding my offering. Writing a book is different. I spend hours and days writing, withdraw for prayer sessions, and seek the heart of God, only to pour out words into a word document that grows daily or weekly. No one sees it yet, and so I continue forward, wondering occasionally why I keep writing. Is this simply my journal? I continue to chisel out this work of art and love in a place of hiddenness, and this practice of hiddenness is sacred and oh so critical to my development as a follower of Jesus.
In the age of social media, instant gratification, the rise of influencers, and the need to be seen and affirmed, the practice of a life forged in secret has never been so critical to our spiritual, emotional, and eternal growth.
This phrase was quoted by pastor JD. Grear of The Summit Church in North Carolina during his streamed sermon this morning: “Only one life will soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last.”
Don’t grow weary of the ministry of the hidden places.
What situations and individuals did Jesus point his disciples toward as He walked this earth? As the disciples quarreled over who would be first in the kingdom, Jesus shifted their attention to the marginalized unorthodox female on the floor, pouring precious perfume at His feet and scandalously letting down her hair to clean them. As the church leaders fought over legislature and condemnation, Jesus bent over to write hidden truths in the sand at their feet. As Stephen faced his final seconds of life being brutally crushed by rocks hurled at his head, he beheld the heavens open up to receive his glorified spirit.
As you serve in secret, intercede in secret, battle for the kingdom in secret, love the unreciprocating in secret over and over without any sign of gratitude, as you serve those who cannot repay you, as you refuse to call attention to yourself because your Lord is the Lord of unrecognized unrelenting humility, be reminded that your kingdom is one that exists in the upside-down. The last will be first; The unseen will be seen; The ones who don’t need to be acknowledged are known by the only One whose gaze matters.
And if you happen to accidentally side-glance at the lures of this world, simply redirect your gaze and lock eyes with the One who sits at the right hand of the Father, who on earth lived as one marginalized, ate with those who could not boost His reputation, washed filthy feet, daily conversed with and cared for those on the fringes, and died a criminal’s death, never seeking to set the records straight.
Jesus sought the gaze of His Father, not the spotlight of the people. That Jesus is our role model, so don’t grow weary in your place of hiding. Celebrate your place in the kingdom.
As I typed out the beatitudes, also known as Jesus’s sermon on the mount in Matthew 5, I chuckled as the image of #squadgoals flashed in my mind’s eye. Here we have the list of best practices for Christian living, and none of them are intuitive from the space of the flesh. Mind you, they are incredibly intuitive from the viewpoint of the Spirit, when we are abiding in Christ and our eyes are locked on Him.
This hidden ministry of the Spirit is the only ministry that makes sense to the man who is indwelt by the Spirit of the living God. This list of lifestyle patterns makes no sense, however, to those who are powered by the cravings of the flesh. From the perspective of the world, these priorities are not only at the bottom of the “to-do” list, but they are down right shameful. Because we know that the mind governed by the flesh trends one way, while the mind governed by the Spirit trends another way. The way of lowliness, of service in the secret place, is the way of life and peace, and nothing can take that peace.
If you find yourself despising this time of work in secret, seek the face of Jesus. And as you seek His face, then you will find yourself deeply blessed, as Jesus so counter-culturally communicated in His sermon on the mount.