"In a world driven by self-promotion and spin, Jesus modeled something different for us. Jesus was saying that instead of telling people about what we're doing all the time, there's a better way. He wants us to be secretly incredible instead. Secretly incredible people keep what they do one of God's best-kept secrets because they know the only one who needs to know, the God of the universe, already knows.
Being secretly incredible does against the trend that says to do anything incredible you have to buy furniture and a laptop, start an organization, and have a mission statement. Secretly incredible people just do things." -Bob Goff, Love Does
Being secretly incredible: what an interesting idea.
But there's something to it, isn't there? As opposed to being obviously incredible or pridefully incredible, being secretly incredible implies a kind of incredible that's actually even deeper and more amazing than it looks on the surface.
In a world where the image of everything you do can be pinned on social media, it's so much easier now to get lots of self-gratifying feelings from presenting yourself to the world versus seeking an inner, longer-lasting peace from who you are- your character- versus what you do or appear like.
The latter is transformative and requires patience and the desire for real inner change (which our culture generally doesn't value quite as much as how things externally appear), and the former requires simple image management- which our culture thrives on, encourages, and promotes.
The kind of funny thing about deeply loving and diligently seeking Christ in this modern world is that you're sort of immune to that ever happening- 'being trendy,' that is. To seek what is eternal is generally not a very cool thing to do. Once you choose reliance on and reverence for God as a way of operation before any of the things of this world, your image (however uncool) kind of takes care of itself; it's not something you work on anymore, nor is it something you any longer covet. Life just gets a little simpler.
You work on qualities of character and representing higher ideas of love, patience, selflessness, humility, joy- instead of yourself. Taking the focus off self-gain and shifting it to the love and redemption of others; and taking the focus off self-love and shifting it to focus on respect for the Lord is also not entirely intuitive: there are a lot of things that seem to make more sense- but in the long run, I've learned, they just don't work as well for our spirits. Like CS Lewis said, 'aim at Heaven and you will get Earth thrown in. Aim at Earth, and you will get neither.'
There's something about starting to seek the Kingdom of God- understanding the true depth of our souls, what they are made of, who they are made by, and where they are going- that enables us not only to 'get' Heaven and eternity, but that enables us live in the present, in the now, with contentedness of heart.
By earthly standards, you're cool these days based on things like the city you live in, the company you work for, the money you make, the number of instagram followers you have, the way you dress, the car you drive or the house you have; if you partake in current workout trends, current lifestyle trends; if you eat organic and ride your bike to work and have the newest iphone.
Don't get me wrong: I do a lot of these things too. I work for an awesome company and I eat organic and I use instagram too. But when these are the things that we use to send each other (and ourselves) the message, 'I know what I'm doing, I have my life together; I am liked, self-reliant, doing well, and internally peaceful or successful or satisfied,' there's a disconnect between letting our outer life represent who we are and understanding ourselves on a deeper level.
It's become self-deceptively easy to confuse the image of who we are with who we actually are. It takes a lot less time to get a hundred people to approve of you for something you did than for one person- namely, yourself- to approve of who you are.
But there's something really beautiful, counter-intuitive, and helpful to the world when we refuse to be self-reliant in achieving in our own ultimate-ness: that's when we actually get it. The best way we can offer light to other people is to go a step beyond self-mastery, into a space of letting go.
For most of us struggling with the idea of an intimate, relational, loving God, it's not that Jesus would be so bad to gain- it's that self-righteousness would be so hard to lose. When we let God's love in, there's little room left for selfish desire.
This principle runs all through life, except we seem to have this very human tendency (especially in our age of get-it-now, need-it-now, want-it-now culture) to want to control our own lives all the time- so following sounds like it has a negative connotation. We don't need to follow. We can figure it out on our own. We can self-govern and achieve total self-mastery.
Except when we look deeper into what this way of thinking really is, we identify it as pridefulness. We've almost collectively forgotten what it means to actually work for one another, to truly be humble: truly strong, truly immune to outside opinion; in touch with our innermost selves. Secretly incredible.
Following is in effect learning: watching someone do something, observing patterns and modes of operation, and then strategically implementing them in whatever environment you're in. If you're not willing to follow- to learn- you won't really ever feel truly fit to lead. And feeling unfit to lead yourself and your own life will affect your confidence, your sense of self-worth, your sense of purpose and meaningfulness.
It is better to lay your life down in the humble recognition that it doesn't belong to you than it is to remain lost and inauthentic to who you know you really are. Unless you do, you won't be willing to be secretly incredible: you'll need to be noticed. Without an acknowledgement of God, we beg for acknowledgement from the world: socially, relationally, from anywhere. We idolize our own opinions and covet our own security. It is the downside to forgetting who rules.
We stop considering that self-renouncing love is actually a lot more necessary for our peace, freedom, happiness, and inner-contentment than other strategies, and so we never really lay down our lives. Instead, we fight for them- without considering that maybe the debt has been paid. We manage them- without considering the simplicity of stillness and the acceptance that they are. We love them- we love our lives- without considering that actually, on the eternal timeline, they'll be gone in pretty much a flash.
We hold too tightly to things that- actually and ultimately, literally and spiritually- don't matter at all. And then the things that do matter- serving others, reconciling relationships, forgiving, peace-making, heart-following, loving each other- we say we have no time or reason to fight for.
When Christ enters our lives, though, the point of living changes. Our selfishness is uncovered, the light is allowed in on our darkness, and fear is driven away and replaced by a higher awareness of evolved, secure, pursuant (not emotional, co-dependent, or desperate) love. Priorities switch. We're called beyond ourselves. Life gains a little more meaning than it ever had before- because we're now serving and answering to something that frees us, versus serving and answering to things that enslave us.
If we selectively refuse to examine the model that God gave us in Christ, we miss a very ultimate principle that we need for right living, that would redeem so much of the brokenness of the world: that the best way to impact the hearts and lives of others is to stop just paying attention to our own.