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Hiddenness, Obscurity, Contemplation and the Active Life

Posted on March 19th, 2010

The following are a few of my recent questions, puzzles, and reflections around the working out of my active life as a Christian leader with a commitment to serve out of a foundation of a deep, interior, contemplative life. Much like Dag Hammarskjold’s Markings, some of this is disjointed as it comes out of my journal reflections, my puzzles in prayer with god, along with my readings over the past couple of months (This includes: Bernard of Clairvaux’s sermons on the Song of Songs, the Desert Fathers, Merton on St. Bernard, and Alicia Britt Chole’s little book Anonymous: Jesus’ Hidden Years and Yours.)

  • 90% percent of Jesus’ ministry, 29 years, was spent in obscurity, hiddenness, and the unseen. This was as important as his 3 active years. They provided the character foundation for Him to walk through the temptations of the wilderness and the pressures from the people around him.  These years also empowered Him to live an eternally fruitful life. As a result, when He was active, Jesus was able to resist the Evil One and choose God’s will to go the way of the cross. I am wrestling with the pace of the expansiveness of both NLF and EHS.  The older I am, the greater is my taste for hiddeness and aloneness with God. I desire more than ever to “hermitage” with God. How is God coming to me through this?
  • Bernard, in his sermons on the Song of Songs (11th century) warns us about being engaged in leadership activity before the time is ripe. He warns about the temptation to interpret every interior ‘attraction’ as an inspiration of the Holy Spirit. He considers the uniting of action with contemplation to be the highest vocation, one that required a “strong soul.” Bernard had no patience for an activism that was not nourished by a rich interior life with God. He notes that many active men/women are overly active because they find the discipline of the interior life tedious. He names this the sin of sloth. He asks, “How can we pour out good upon others from our own emptiness?”  Again, I am wondering about the increased depth of foundation I need for this next season of my life?
  • I have been pondering also the models of leadership before me – the Western 21st century church vs. the Desert Fathers. “They said of Arsenius and Theodore of Pherme that they hated fame and praise more than anything. Arsenius avoided people likely to praise him. Theodore did not avoid them, but their words were like daggers to him.” (Desert Fathers, Penguin edition). I am very drawn to the desert fathers but remain unsure of what it all means.

Do you too ever wonder, as I do,  if our view and understanding of Christian leadership is more shaped by Western culture over against Scripture?

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