Tuesday, 25 February 2020
Why Do I Resist a Hidden Life?
The Corona virus has forced us all into a hidden life, not just for ourselves, but to protect our neighbor. How will you and I manage it?
Do you chafe at living a hidden life? Do your efforts to publish your life and thoughts through Facebook or Instagram or Twitter fall short of your expectations? Instead of producing a rapidly expanding audience of enthusiastic followers, do you attract only your mom, some workout buddies, and those who follow you only so you’ll follow them back?
Today I’m pausing the Gospel of Mark study to ponder the verse that leads this post. Ponder with me.
I often struggle with the hidden life God has given me. It seems so ordinary, so small, so everyday. I sometimes wonder if I’m doing enough or doing the right things. Is my hidden life worth anything in the larger scheme?
On a long flight recently I had a chance to watch the movie, A Hidden Life, directed by Terrence Malick. The fact that I didn’t know any of the actors and that it was nearly 3 hours long almost made me pass it by, in favor of the quicker fix of most American movie fare. Honestly, when your flight is entering its ninth hour and you’ve already had 3 meals of airline food, you just want to be entertained.
But I watched the trailer and decided that I would give this film a chance. The worst that could happen was that I might change my mind part way through and have to pick another flick to pass the time.
I didn’t know how much I needed this film’s message.
In the Ordinary
The movie starts simply. Boy meets girl. Girl notices boy. They dance. They marry. In time they plow the earth and make a home and begin to have little blonde girls. Their life is full and rich in their Austrian village. Think Heidi meets Sound of Music, with Alpine views and a magnificent score.
They are both tall, slender, and very hard working. We watch them swinging scythes through fields of tall wheat, their rhythms steady, hers slightly slower. We see their partnership, his yoking the oxen to thresh, her kneading and baking rows of round loaves, pulled from the oven on long wooden boards. In the evening they sing and tussle with their girls. The church bells ring over the village.
I could see in this movie that ordinary is beautiful, even when it’s not enhanced by orchestration and edited to eliminate repetition. A shared life of love and work and faith and community is quietly spectacular.
A hidden life doesn’t need to prove itself worthy. I took a deep breath and something inside me relaxed.
In the Traumatic
Then war begins and their village life is disrupted. It’s 1939. He is called up to serve and sent away for training. She carries on alone. You feel his absence in her every movement. You see it in her eyes. Many men are missing, but he is the one you miss.
You brace yourself for the worst, but there is a pause before the storm. It look as if the war will end quickly. He returns and their busy life resumes. But the peace doesn’t last. When he is called up again, he is required to take an oath of loyalty to Hitler, just like all the other men.
But he doesn’t. He won’t. His conscience won’t allow him.
Then you and I see how everything changes because of his good and terrible decision, and in that, we see the meaning of our ordinary life. That life is not meant to be flashy or spectacular, it’s simply meant to be faithful. Faith full. Full of faith in the One who made me and saved me.
My ordinary life is not meant to be flashy or spectacular, it’s simply meant to be faithful.
Sometimes that will be easy, but sometimes it won’t. The man didn’t set out to be a hero; the woman wasn’t trying to show she could do it alone. They simply did the next faithful thing, through tears and anguish and gossiping neighbors who didn’t understand.
Hidden in God
This is the life God has called believers to live. When we believe in Christ, God takes our life and hides us. Where? With his Son, in himself. As you and I live and work and grocery shop and fold laundry, our lives are hidden with Christ in God. As you and I sin and repent and suffer and pray, our lives are hidden with Christ in God.
Whether we’re prominent or obscure, rich or struggling to make ends meet, our lives as believers are hidden with Christ in God.
How can that be? Because when I believed, I died. Now, I’ve been in a hospital room when the patient codes and then, despite all the efforts of the medical team, dies. At that moment the frantic activity to save his life ceases. All life-saving sounds are silenced, replaced by a solitary technician who detaches the body from all wires and monitors, turns off life support and leaves the room.
You and I are like that patient. We have died. We’ve died to our old ways of pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps and making a name for ourselves. We’ve died to the need to prove our worth before the world and even before ourselves. We may not feel dead, but we believe we’ve died, because Paul tells us:
For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.Colossians 3:3
We’ve died. But that’s not all. Paul tells us that we’re hidden, and that Christ is right there with us. You see, though he has been raised and has already ascended, he is hidden right now, too.
True, but that’s still not the end of the story.
The Hidden Revealed
The hidden life is not the end of my story, because it is not the end of Jesus’ story. There is a future day we are all waiting for. Scripture calls it the “day of his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:8). It is the day when Christ will appear in all his glory, returning to rule a new heavens and earth.
And that is also the day of our appearing. Paul continues:
When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.Colossians 3:4
Our appearing is future, as is Christ’s. Our appearance is certain, as is Christ’s.
This perspective, the long view of eternity, gives me a growing contentment that calms my existential anxiety and helps me to keep doing good in my hidden place. I may not be called upon to stand against Hitler, but I will be called to sacrifice and service today, and again tomorrow.
Who will know my name? Who will know about my sacrifice? That doesn’t really matter. What matters is this. It will do all the good–“the grown good”– God intends in that moment. This quote by George Eliot concludes the movie:
For the grown good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.George Eliot
So let’s life faithfully our hidden life. And in that Day, the day of Christ’s appearing, it will be rewarded beyond our wildest dreams.
For nothing is hidden except to be made manifest, nor is anything secret except to come to light. Mark 4:22