In his book To Hell With The Hustle, Jefferson Bethke writes, “One of the worst and most insidious parts of our overconnected society is we give no margin for Jesus to deal with us in the darkness. We can’t hear him in our trauma or problems or hurt or pain, because we let everyone else speak into it first.”
He goes on to explain the concept of obscurity – one I hadn’t heard of until my most recent reading endeavor of three books covering the topic of busyness, hurry, and hustle. Bethke describes it as “The gift and beauty, and desperate need, of the desert. Of the place of wandering. Alone. The place where God does his best work. Where he meets you most intimately. Where he isn’t at fault for the curse, but where he walks with you through it.”
That’s what the past year felt like to me: obscurity.
I didn’t choose it for myself. Unlike Jesus, I didn’t intentionally withdraw or seek the desolate place. I didn’t have that knowledge or wisdom until it was recently illuminated by these books. But regardless, I believe that the Lord drew me into a hushed year. Interestingly, the year’s events were far from quiet, but the degree to which I shared or talked about what was going on was perhaps more silent than I’ve ever approached life, specifically online.
Up until the end of the 2018, I was the girl convinced that she was “called” to social media. I felt passionate about sharing as authentically and vulnerably as possible and over the course of 2019, my heart shifted and I just really didn’t care as much. This lessened care for social media played a huge role in my year of obscurity. When big life events happened last year, my Instagram followers were the last to hear about it. And when something really exciting happened, I settled into it and enjoyed it for months before really sharing it. On the contrary, when not-so-great things happened, I sought quiet and stillness, letting God speak into it more than people on social media.
The result? Life-changing.
My sincerest gratitude goes to Brady Boyd (Author of Addicted to Busy), Jefferson Bethke (Author of To Hell With The Hustle) and John Mark Comer (Author of The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry), for opening my eyes so drastically over the past month. These three books have played an incremental role in not only changing my approach to life, technology, and the digital space, but also re-evaluating how I’m incorporating the spiritual disciplines into my life and as a result, how I view God working in my life.
When you give yourself the space and set aside the intentional time to step back enough to see what’s been happening in your life and the trends you’ve been noticing – perspective rushes in like a waterfall. I was confused by the low-grade anxiety I felt so often at the end of last year, concerned by the feeling like I was already on a hamster wheel that I couldn’t get off of (which is supposed to happen when you’re like… thirty, right?), and I simply didn’t know how to actually set boundaries on my time in order to protect and guard my spiritual, mental, physical, and emotional health.
I was the definition of a hot mess, except nothing about it was actually appealing or gloat-worthy.
I think we sometimes see the warning signs in our life, but rarely take the necessary actions to deal with the situation proactively. I personally felt like I couldn’t justify “stepping back” or “saying no” unless I reached the point of burnout and could use it as my reasoning. It was pride by its very definition.
I felt like I had something to prove.
I felt like I had to justify my decisions to people, not to God.
I felt like I had no control over my yes’s and no’s, because the “right” thing to do was so unclear.
And this is where obscurity played a huge role. The entirety of 2019, for all its amazing events – was evenly mixed with my life’s biggest changes and challenges. It was a year where SO much changed, and I wish I would’ve been more aware of the time it was going to take to find my footing again. But I also know that the obscurity – the dealing with this and navigating it all in quiet ways and in selective and small community – enabled me to experience the most joy it had to offer.
I’m not the type to shy away from the hard realities of life. It’s honestly easier for me to share in hardship than it is to get deeply ecstatic about the blessings. And I think that’s because a part of me loves the hardship, knowing full well that it’s bringing me and drawing me closer to the God I love – the One who reconciles every issue in His glorious way and who brings me comfort that cannot be compared to. As for blessings – well I have many. 2019 was a year in which God poured out provisions and gifts beyond what I deserve. And I’d like to think that these sweet little gifts are the daily mercies that keep me going and give me eyes to see beyond the immediate imperfections that flood my life.
Two days ago I turned 23 and for me there’s a deep-seated meaning in this milestone.
I feel as though I’m coming out of a year of obscurity and there’s a strength that comes from that. There is a clarity that can only be gained in the obscure, a peace that only has time to settle into your soul in the obscure, and a reinforcing of your identity that can only permeate your heart and mind in the obscure. But you must be willing to sacrifice for it.
Sacrifice the temporary high of some social media posts, the social elation of a filled schedule, the feeling of being known by the world – all in order to feel and recognize how truly known you are by God.
Is it easy, comfortable, and safe? No.
Is it entirely worth it? Absolutely.
Photo by Noah Austin, from https://unsplash.com/