Episode 1. Those Hidden Places
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God does some strange things sometimes. He leads us into hidden places – lonely places, dark places and seems to leave us there. What’s He up to? Why does He do that? I love the term, …
God does some strange things sometimes. He leads us into hidden places – lonely places, dark places and seems to leave us there. What’s He up to? Why does He do that?
I love the term, “flying under the radar” and it’s become incredibly special to me as I read a book of that same name written by one Douglas Webster. The whole notion is that sometimes, in combat, aircrafts fly so low, literally just feet above the ground or the sea that the enemy’s radar can’t detect them. They’re invisible as they fly along until they reach their objective and that’s the idea of “flying under the radar”. It’s an idea that’s so important, it turns out, in life as well.
See we live in a world where people are clamouring for recognition, to be noticed, to be valued, to be rewarded, to be thanked. And in fact, it seems we’re a generation of recognition junkies. I think that’s what the whole celebrity things about. And yet you look around at the people that you and I really respect, I mean people of substance, people of real achievement and by and large those kinds of people, few and far between as they are, they want little to do with worldly success and recognition. It seems that they’re prepared to fly under the radar.
Now I have to tell you, I am your quintessential recognition junkie. I mean most of my life, the first 36 years of my life, this manifested itself in so many different ways. In the cars that I drove: I always chose the most expensive flashy good looking car that I could possibly afford.
The houses that I lived in: it was always important that they were big and pretentious and they said something about who I was and what I’d achieved and the success that I had and the money that I had.
The way that I dressed: I always dressed, you heard of the term “power dressing”? You put on the really bold coloured tie and a dark suit and a white shirt and you know, to look like you’re powerful.
The priorities I had in life: in being noticed, being seen, going to the right functions, mixing with the right people, mingling. Always making sure that at work the boss knew who was responsible for all that good stuff that came across his or her desk and taking every little opportunity, subtly, to undermine my work colleagues just so that people knew who was on top and who was the top dog.
You recognise any of those? It’s a subtle thing this addiction to recognition but it’s there in so many ways. I mean recognition is really important for children because that’s how they build their self esteem. Parental approval is an important component of the emotional growth of a child, they need to be patted on the back often, that’s how they grow. But like mothers milk, it’s something we’re supposed to be weaned off.
As we grow and mature we’re supposed to become people who don’t survive on recognition, who don’t perform for the crowd. The problem is, for a long time at least, I never grew up and you know something; there are lots of people like that, they’re still addicted to recognition. It’s a sad addiction because its something you can never get enough of, it’s like heroin; we’re worried about what people think of us.
You know what weaned me off that? It was suffering in a hidden place. I look back on when I became a Christian fifteen years ago and it was at a time in my life of pain and distress. There were major things going on in my life, I still had the expensive flashy car and the high flying job and all that stuff but I was in a dark and lonely place. It was so black that words can’t describe it. It was so lonely.
It was a pit so deep that there seemed to be no way out and at the time I was just starting to come to grips with who God might be, if He existed at all and like everyone who ends up in a place like that, I said, “God why? Why do I have to go through this? Why?” We all ask that question don’t we? Why? And heres what I’ve noticed about God, He inevitably does His greatest miracles in our lives in those dark lonely places.
Joseph … Joseph was Abraham’s great grandson. Abraham has a son called Isaac. Isaac had a son called Jacob. Jacob had twelve sons one of whom was Joseph. You may have heard the story of Joseph and the Technicolour Dream Coat, Joseph had these dreams about how all his other brothers were going to bow down to him one day, he was dads favourite. I tell you, his brothers wanted to kill him, literally, but instead of killing him ultimately they double crossed him and sold him into slavery.
Can you imagine? Your own brothers trap you in a pit and they sell you as a slave, I mean that’s incredibly unfair and so these slave traders took him down to Egypt and he was sold in a market to a man called Potiphar but Joseph was a class act and ultimately Potiphar put Joseph in charge of all of his affairs and obviously young Joseph wasn’t bad looking either because Potiphar’s wife wanted to drag him into bed. And when he refused she accused him of rape and Joseph, who did the right thing, ends up in prison.
See, life is so unfair sometimes. Now Joseph went on to become the prime minister of Egypt, second only to pharaoh but that time in that dungeon was so important, it was the place where he grew up, it was the place where he learned wisdom.
He was the youngest son, he was dads favourite, he had delusions of grandeur, he was this little recognition junkie. And God had to deal with that and He did, by putting Joseph into slavery and then into that dungeon. See this didn’t last for hours or days or even weeks, this went on for years that God had Joseph in those incredibly unfair dark and lonely places. See, it seems that so often this is Gods way, to take us, to mould us and to shape us in those hidden places.
Have you ever noticed, in Gods creation, that new life always seems to happen in hidden places? A child is conceived and grows hidden in its mother’s womb. This little green grub crawling around on the leaves becomes a beautiful butterfly hidden away in its cocoon. You know what?
Those hidden places are where God takes us and where we suffer alone, they are the exact opposite of the limelight of recognition. They are exactly the places He needs to take us to change us, hidden away from the worlds gaze and recognition, adulation and praise and rewards, like a heroin addict going through withdrawal but the end of it we have a new freedom.
I have come to set the captives free.
And again He said:
If I set you free you will really be free.
When we don’t live our lives for recognition and reward anymore we are finally free, we’re finally at rest, we finally feel safe.
I look back on my life and I know that in that dark place God did His greatest work in me. He set me free from me, from being my own “little tin pot god”, from the fear and the insecurity of always needing the next fix of recognition. He works in mighty and mysterious ways, not always obvious, not always pleasant but always, always with one goal in mind – to set us free.