"In this age where 'authenticity' is code for 'cool' and 'hip', I wonder if we are telling some things -- even about our spiritual life -- that should be kept private. Have we taken 'open and honest' to a level where we inadvertently neglect a truthful and deep look at our own soul? Are we trying so hard to seem to be transparent that we risk being silent and still before God, allowing Him to speak to the depth of our hidden heart?"
If you're on social media, you've seen, I'm sure, posts about what others are doing during the Lenten season. Some are giving up Krispy Kreme donuts, some are exercising more, some -- like myself -- have decided (and shared on Facebook) to add "de-cluttering" to my cleansing process of Lent.
But, just the other day, as I was reading and reflecting on Matthew 6:1-6 (“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you."), I began to have a greater understanding of what this season is for a believer. Though the scripture is talking about giving to the needy and our prayer life, it also touches on how our actions hopefully are about making space and drawing closer to God -- not for show-- and the great call to do it privately.
In this age where "authenticity" is code for "cool" and "hip", I wonder if we are telling some things -- even about our spiritual life -- that should be kept private. Have we taken "open and honest" to a level where we inadvertently neglect a truthful and deep look at our own soul? Are we trying so hard to seem to be transparent that we risk being silent and still before God, allowing Him to speak to the depth of our hidden heart?
Spiritual life can be complicated. Not because spirituality is but because we try often to understand it from a limited bases. So, like me, writing and sharing are helpful ways to seek and see God. There is a "3rd space" for us, in community, to ask questions, be in dialogue and prayer, to worship and grieve. Church, for too long, has been too secretive. People afraid to share their heartache of our fear of being judged. We need truth and authenticity and support.
But there is also a time we need to go into our secret prayer closet. There is a time we need to worship alone in the kitchen or bathroom. There is the time when God speaks directly to us when we are alone, open and available. And these times we are to hold close how God is moving, not boast about them. If we are able to put into words God's move in our life, do we have to update our Facebook status or tweet these sacred moments? I believe not.
Don't get me wrong. We need to spread the Good News and what better way than by our own testimony? Yet, the Lenten season calls us away from distractions of the world (and ego) to reflect on the life of Jesus and the crucifixion, that we may prepare ourselves to sacrifice our flesh that we grow in the Spirit. This takes discipline and the desire to go within, to surrender, to receive from God. Can we truly do this if we are equally concerned about the outside world?
This season provides the opportunity for a deeper level of intimacy with God but if we are tempted to say to others at every turn, "Look at how I'm walking this Lenten path," we miss the point! We are called to be light. How God prunes us to get there doesn't have to be validated by an outside audience (which, often, is our motivation to share, if we're not aware). We don't need anyone to say, "Wow, yes, because of that (whatever "that" is) I believe God has called you..." That's something we must know for ourselves (plus, who would you really want or need to hear that from)? The light that radiates from us is our evidence of God's good work in us.
As with everything, finding balance is what's important -- the balance between sharing what God is doing in our lives and having our relationship with God be personal and private. When it's easy to get caught up in what seems to be the "in" thing, I am reminded to take time to be secretive, especially during Lenten season. There is a hidden place in my heart, as in yours, where a garden blooms making space for me and the Holy Spirit to meet. This is where we grow; and our light and love from this secret side of Lent will be our testimony. More so than words and social media updates.