A Beautiful Disaster (An Excerpt & Giveaway!)
Today I get to introduce you to my friend Marlena Graves, a deep-souled woman whose wisdom and genuine kindness is a gift to all who know her. Her first book, , releases today! And in honor of its release, she’s sharing an excerpt from the book and giving away three copies. See the bottom of this post to enter to win.
PS I hope my family will write “A Beautiful Disaster” on my gravestone. It sounds just right.
The Pain of Being Invisible and the Discipline of Secrecy
By Marlena Graves
An excerpt from Chapter 9, “The God Who Sees Me,” in her book, A Beautiful Disaster: Finding Hope in the Midst of Brokenness ( pp. 157-165) Brazos Press, a division of Baker Publishing Group, ©2014. Used by permission.
The Pain of Being Invisible
I have felt invisible. I too have borne the sting of going unnoticed. Unfortunately, being rendered invisible and voiceless is an experience shared by many.
We’ve been made to believe that having others vie for our time and attention or court our input or sing our praises in a million little ways will make us somebody. And, well, if we don’t have those things or the approval of particular persons, we’re just nobodies who want to be somebodies. Rejection, whether real or perceived, can make us feel like a nobody. Rejection is brutal. Being ignored or seeing the distance in another’s eyes makes us feel hollow inside.
If we will let it, the wilderness will function as our teacher. One of the many lessons it teaches us is to pay attention—to God and to others. One of the first things love does is pay attention. Even a loved one who feels ignored and invisible feels unloved.
We all, every one of us, want our God-given dignity affirmed by others. We want to receive attention. We want to be valued, appreciated, admired, and sought after. We want to feel cherished and adored—to be “in” with others. It’s why we are overly concerned with our reputations, why we loathe obscurity, and why our confidence hangs on the opinions of others. When it comes right down to it, some of us believe that we matter if and only if hordes of people are fawning over us. But I’ve noticed that those who aren’t obsessed with being noticed are often the healthiest and wisest people among us—and also deeply loved by many.
The Discipline of Secrecy
When I start to question whether anyone takes me seriously or whether my age, gender, or body shape is causing me to fade into the background, when I desire prestige and am tempted to behave in ways that will persuade others to take notice of me, I know I am going to have to take action if I am not going to get messed up. An out-of-control need to be seen is an addiction that will drive us to compromise the Jesus life. In the kingdom of God, being seen and pursuing fame and prestige are not to be our motivations. That’s why Jesus told us to seek first the kingdom of God (Matt. 6:33).
To combat these temptations, I remind myself over and over again that to be great in the kingdom means that I am to become the servant of all. I remind myself that being great in the kingdom doesn’t entail having lots of servants or people vying for my attention.
Dallas Willard writes, “Jesus . . . in Matthew 6, alerts us to the two main things that will block or hinder a life constantly interactive with God and healthy growth in the kingdom. These are the approval of others, especially for being devout, and the desire to secure ourselves by means of material wealth.”[i] If I am motivated to become visible by flaunting my supposed holiness, by how I dress, or by trying to sound erudite, I know I’ve veered off the path of life. Ultimately, these postures are unloving, for I am not seeking the good of God, others, or even myself.
In the wilderness, destructive behavior becomes quite tempting when we are vulnerable and so desperately want somebody, anybody, to see us, to notice us, and to affirm our existence. In order to break the habit of doing things in order to be noticed, Willard says we should practice the discipline of secrecy. We practice the discipline of secrecy by doing our good deeds in a way so as not to be observed. Nouwen elaborates further on this idea:
Many great minds and spirits have lost their creative force through too early or too rapid exposure to the public. We know it; we sense it; but we easily forget it because our world persists in proclaiming the big lie: “Being unknown means being unloved.” . . . Now look at Jesus who came to reveal God to us, and you see that popularity in any form is the very thing he avoids. He is constantly pointing out that God reveals himself in secrecy.[ii]
I am not to obsess and fuss over whether or not I am noticed. Jesus didn’t weary himself in seeking the endorsement or approval of others. He was no acrobat performing in accordance with public opinion or even in accordance with the opinions of those closest to him. The disapproval or rejection of others did not dictate his behavior; he did not allow their approval or disapproval to manipulate him. He would have rather been rendered invisible and obscure than disobey God. Though tempted to do the spectacular in order to be noticed, he humbled and entrusted himself to our Father, who sees our secret postures, attitudes, and behaviors. He trusted that his good Father would lift him up in due time. And he did.
So too our food, that which nourishes us and makes us whole, is to do God’s will. Our food is not being noticed. It is not the approval of others. God delights when we delight in him, and he sees all the little things we do in secret. He sees when we are not given credit for our efforts and ideas, and he shares the pain we experience when others take the credit for what we’ve done.
We must choose to do the will of God even if it renders us invisible, even if it renders us invisible or obscure in the Christian community.
Marlena is giving away three copies of her new book! Click on the rafflecopter icon below and follow its guidance to enter to win yourself a copy, by either tweeting or by leaving a comment answering this question: Has following God sometimes rendered you “invisible or obscure” in your Christian community? How so?
We’d love to hear from you!
Marlena reflects on what it means to be a disciple of Jesus amid the beauty, wonder, and tragedy of this God-haunted world. She desires to offer a taste of the beauty and goodness and the hospitality of God through what she writes and how she lives. She also thinks about this: if Jesus reserved his harshest words for the religious people of his day, challenging their attitudes, in what way is Jesus challenging her and others within the Church? She is a for Christianity Today’sandblogs. She has contributed to Christianity Today, Relevant, the Conversations Journal, Rachel Held Evans’s blog, and other venues. She is also a member of and . She is married to her favorite person in existence, Shawn Graves. He’s a philosophy professor. Together they have two girls with another on the way. She’s on staff at her church offering and coordinating pastoral care for their beloved seniors. You can find her blog atand her Twitter handle is @MarlenaGraves. She welcomes conversation with you in the name of Jesus.
[i]Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life in God (NewYork: HarperSanFrancisco, 1998), 188.
[ii]Henri M. Nouwen, Letters to Marc about Jesus: Living a Spiritual Life in a Material World (New York: HarperCollins, 2009), 72. Sbb have announced publicly that they are flattered that their clock design has been featured by a brand spying.ninja as important as apple however the use of the clock was unauthorised as there was no proper licensing agreement