Your life is hidden with Christ – Col 3:3
“And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
What is the value of a thing done in secret?
What is the value a long walk, alone, under stars in the park if we don’t tell anyone that we went?
What’s the value of a book that we read but never talk about?
What do we gain from moments alone listening to airplanes overhead, cooking a meal just for ourselves, meditating and feeling the weight of our body on the floor?
Who are you in your hidden self?
It’s very hard to love a thing for its own sake, to love what it smells like and tastes like and how it feels on your skin without sharing it. I’m not saying that sharing joy is a bad thing! We have a healthy longing to not be alone in the beauty of the world. Sharing joy with a community, though, is not necessarily the same as performing joy. There can be an overlap, but there is some performance that alienates instead of unifying. There is some performance that dims our joy, instead of amplifying it.
The internet is a beautiful thing that has given me so many good gifts, but the temptation to perform my experience of the world – before I even lean in to the experience itself – can leave me in a world that gives endorphin high after high, but never leaves me satisfied for longer than a minute or two. Some months ago at my old house church, there was a moment that was so sacred, so heart-wrenching, so entirely holy that I felt like my body couldn’t take it all in. When I got in the car afterwards, I turned on my phone because I have got to Tweet this.
… but what does it mean to perform not just my personality, my activism, my eating habits, the mountains I hike and the races I run –
– but to perform spirituality itself?
At what gain? At what loss?
I didn’t tweet the moment. It’s mine, now, in a particular way that feels sacred. I’m glad that I saved it.
Well, if I don’t share this moment, it will just disappear. It won’t be good for anything. It won’t edify the Church! It won’t help someone’s faith walk! What a waste!
I hear my inner Simon, scolding Mary while she wastes something beautiful on Jesus, just because she loves him, in that valuable moment that could not be monetized or productive or healing the world. That sacred waste was precious, even though it didn’t do a damn thing for anyone except Jesus, and herself.
What do you do that is sacred, just for you and Jesus? Where are your hidden gardens that no one is allowed into except you and the One you love? Have you ever just poured out perfume because it was beautiful, and because you were in love, and because this moment is valuable for its own sake?
Can you cultivate a hidden self like pruning branches in a secret garden, creating and sustaining loveliness for its own sake?
Performing isn’t inherently bad. I love performance, whether preaching or speaking or hamming it up as Shakespearean goofcanoes (in high school, I was Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and it is still one of the most joyful things I’ve ever done). I feel comfortable on a stage, and it’s always delightful to discover that my joy being on a stage can merge with other people’s joy when they watch me preach or act.
The richest and most meaningful performances will come out of our centeredness, though. They will bubble out of our joy of “the thing itself,” a joy that we have cultivated in hiddenness and secret delight. When we perform out of that secret delight, it’s the kind of performance that points others to the source of our joy – not to the performance, and not to ourselves.
The way to cultivate performance that fills us up and connects us to others is to cultivate the hidden life.
In the hidden life, we learn to love things for their own sake. We learn to laugh at what is funny and breathe in beauty and listen to Heaven in leaves and wind and snoring black labs. That practice of noticing beauty in our hidden lives teaches us how to perform well.
When our hidden life with Christ is enough, and sustaining, then we don’t need the performance to feed us. We don’t need the performance to substitute for community. We don’t need to perform to know we’re seen.
Practice the hidden life this week, this month. Read a poem and don’t re-read it out loud to your spouse. Go for a walk without your phone. Dance alone in your room to the song you have loved since you were twelve. Cultivate what is hidden and unseen. It is our hidden and unseen lives that fuel our ministry and our love.