Blooming in a Season of Hiddenness
“Hiddenness is the place of purification. In hiddenness we find our truest selves.”
One of my mentors tells the story about how one day on a walk in a familiar urban area, she stumbled upon a hidden garden tucked away right off the main road with a stunning pond covered with blossoming lily pads. As she stood marveling at how she could have possibly missed this hidden treasure in her daily walks, she heard the Lord ask her, “Would you be willing to be hidden away and bloom for my glory, even if no one ever saw you?”
She told me, “It was such an alluring invitation, I couldn’t help but say, ‘Yes!” So she reordered her life, stepping out of her dynamic full-time public ministry willing to serve God from the background until God had clearly released her back into upfront ministry. One year stretched into two… stretched in four… stretched into seven years. For seven years, she yielded herself to the lessons of hiddenness.
We are ALL invited into the school of hiddenness at some point in our lives.
Many things can be hidden: our skills or gifting, our creativity, our experiences, our depth, our knowledge, our sense of humor, our passion, our competence, our ability to articulate well in a new language. When circumstances somehow cover some key part of our identity, we can feel isolated. Misunderstood. Unappreciated. Unknown. Under-valued. Especially when that season goes on for an extended period of time.
Common circumstances that bring hiddenness might include:
- During intense seasons of child-rearing when your other vocational skills are not in use
- Transitioning to a new culture where you are learning the language
- Feeling stuck in a job for which you are overqualified or that doesn’t align with your passions and gifting
- Living with chronic illness or emotional struggles that others may not see outwardly (i.e. depression or chronic pain)
- Living as a single in a world geared towards couples and families
- Walking a season of grief where everyone else has moved on but your world is still shattered
- Living in the shadow of a family member or co-worker with major needs or a big personality
- Entering retirement where the things which have given you identity and purpose are suddenly removed
Here’s what to remember about your seasons of hiddenness…
Seasons of hiddenness are often a time of PREPARATION.
Very rarely do we receive a dramatic word/calling/vision for our lives and see it come to pass immediately. Almost always we will experience a time of testing, preparation, and development. Think of King David in the Bible— he was anointed to be king as a teenager but the very next scene we see him back out in the fields tending sheep. Talk about vocational whiplash! It was another FIFTEEN years before he actually took the throne – and the majority of those years he spent hidden – literally hiding from King Saul who was trying to kill him.
But those hidden years were NOT wasted. Long hours in the fields gave David the chance to hone his slingshot skills which he used to slay the most fearsome enemy of his era. In his years of life on the run from King Saul, David wrote powerful psalms of lament which still speak to us today. The skills David needed to be a king were NOT developed in the palace; they were forged in boring hours of menial labor, hiding in caves, learning to lead a ragtag group of men in obscurity, and living a near homeless existence. AND THEN, he stepped into his God-ordained role as king.
Our relationship with God forms differently in SECRET than in PUBLIC.
We like to think we really aren’t THAT motivated by external approval. That our identity isn’t really about what we do but who we are. That we really would serve with abandon even if we didn’t get the strokes from others. That we will hold in faith to what God has spoken/promised even when it’s delayed or if no one else believes it is true. But how will you know for sure until they are removed?
Hiddenness is the testing ground for what live on to nourish our identity. When the external voices of praise or confirmation are gone, suddenly we may feel more insecure, insignificant, or unworthy. Of course, there is nothing wrong with affirmation, but when those voices are removed for a season we learn to redirect our focus to God for the source of nourishment. Consider this a season of dying to places that we used to receive feed off in unhealthy ways.
At one point in a season of hiddenness, I found myself daydreaming about a particular retreat that I had spoken at— sometimes thinking about how I could have improved my talk but mostly just reliving what had been a very powerful weekend. I found that revisiting that memory made me feel important and successful.
After this had gone on for a few months, the Lord gave me a picture in my prayer time. Jesus and I were in the library of my heart and I took a book off the shelf that represented this particular retreat. We looked at it together, celebrating what had happened there, but I was also a little squirmy because I knew I had been visiting that book on the sly— to meditate on my own glory and not God’s glory. When we were done looking at this book, Jesus said, “I don’t want you to revisit this story to either beat yourself up or build yourself up. I am proud of you – that is enough.” And he put the book back on the shelf.
Pay attention to your daydreams– they’ll point to your areas of need and longing. Be aware of the internal scramble to find significance and bring these into conversation with God. Hiddenness provides us with a powerful season of identifying fragile places of self and teaches us how to root our identity in His promises and love.
Find your JOY blooming for the Audience of the Trinity.
We CAN bloom in hiddenness. There is Someone who is always captivated by your beauty even when it is hidden from everyone else. In the difficult season of hiddenness as a young mother, the Lord once nudged me to go in and look at my sleeping children. He said, “Do you know how much you delight in this child? Do you know the absurd amount of joy you get from watching her quirks and humor and spunk? That’s how I feel about YOU.” We each have a Holy Audience every single moment of every single day. They are celebrating your uniqueness, laughing at your jokes, hurting with you when you are overlooked, and cheering you on as you struggle through the school of hiddenness. Hiddenness is not punishment; it is a season of displaying our glory more for our Creator than any other person on earth. And He treasures this time with you!
Prepare yourself for a Divine Upgrade.
And lastly, when we have yielded well to this season of hiddenness, it’s quite common to receive an increase in God’s power in our gifting when we emerge. My mentor said she operated at a completely different level of authority in prayer, healing, and teaching after those seven years of hiddenness. Expect a Divine Upgrade— stemming not from your own merit but from the new intimacy with God that you have forged in the hidden place.
As painful as hiddenness can be, the treasures you will discover of this season will change who you are and how you minister. There are things forged in hiddenness that cannot be forged anywhere else. May you turn your eyes today toward your Holy Audience opening your heart to receive all the words of affirmation and confirmation that you need.
I will give you the treasures of darkness
And hidden wealth of secret places,
So that you may know that it is I,
The Lord, the God of Israel, who calls you by your name.