Glorified Obscurity

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“Now this was John’s testimony when the Jews of Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was. He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, “I am not the Christ.” They asked him, “Then who are you? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” He answered, “No.” Finally they said, “Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.'” John 1:19-23

“Do you wish to rise? Begin by descending. You plan a tower that will pierce the clouds? Lay first the foundation of humility.”  Augustine

John had already developed quite a following in the outback of Judea. Though he was not used to all this attention, it would only be natural for him to go along with the opinion polls and acknowledge himself as something more than he really was – the Messiah. But he knew who he was.

The same is true in our marriage. I could say, “I am the King of our relationship” and allow the ramifications of that declaration to infect our bond. The truth is I am no one special except that I am a servant in the hands the Lord. I am the voice of one calling us out from the mundane wilderness of everyday living. I serve you not from the glamour and prestige of a pulpit, radio/TV broadcast or the written word. No – “I am among you as one who serves” through the simple acts of thoughtfulness done in the name of Jesus. I am the prophet of the laundry room; the seer of the dirty toilet; the priest of the massage. It is enough that Jesus sees my deeds and hears my words – deeds and words done in the silence of marriage. It is enough. I know who I am.

But I must be as quick as John to deflect praise even from this affirmation of myself. I must “not fail to confess, but confess freely” I wish I lived in this glorified obscurity more often. I pray I would live in the place of stillness that comes when I am content with the calling I have received from God – in marriage and out. Instead I become unsettled and long for the voices of assumed power and control; looking for ways to inflate myself through subtle and not so subtle means. In my deepest part I long to live in the contentment of knowing who I am and what I have been called to. Glorified obscurity is hard enough to practice in the relative quiet of home life but is magnified exponentially when God calls us to “prepare the way of the Lord” in ministry to someone or some group outside the home. Like John I may be called to some role where I am elevated to places underserved. I can become sidetracked by those who might say, “Are you the next …?” Or mesmerized by the flattery and admiration that comes with the request to speak at a conference? “You are an ‘expert’ on marital relations – can I get you autograph?

When the applause is amped up to whom will I offer my worship? If God calls me to “prepare the way of the Lord” will I remember home? What will I say about myself? Will I believe all my press clippings or will I, like John, have the quiet mind of an exalted unseen husband-servant?

“Selah” – stop and listen.

Lord, I hear you calling me to come nearer to You. Allow me to lay still in the knowledge that You are at work in my serenity. It is not in the frenzy of home life, ministry or agendas where You are most alive in me, but in the calm repose of faith and surrender. Make me like the Baptizers – John and Jesus. Amen

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