It was a lovely wintry morning and I was walking around the park with my son in his pram, you know, just minding my own business, when it hit me like a sledgehammer: ‘Dwelling in the secret place means being weaned off of the approval of people.’ Wow. Good morning to you, too, Holy Spirit!
Yes, it’s true: God wants me to be a Christian ninja. All those verses about ‘dwelling in the secret place’ (for example, Psalm 91:1) and the more cryptic reference to the ‘womb of the morning’ (Psalm 110:3) started to make sense in light of what Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount about giving, praying, fasting in secret. I especially like what he says about anointing your head when you’re fasting so it will not be obvious – not only do we not live our Christian life to be praised by people, we almost try to hide our holiness.
This hiddenness is revolutionary, for it cancels out the two great banes of the Christian existence: hypocrisy and judgement. ‘The Father who sees what is done in secret will reward openly’ (Matthew 6:4, 6, 18). If I am practicing my holiness in secret, I am not trying to impress you into praising me or giving towards my ministry – the Father sees my secret heart, so I don’t need to prove myself to anyone. Also, if I am practicing my holiness in secret, I must believe that you are also practicing your holiness in secret. I am not trying to evaluate your holiness based on what I can see – I am free to believe the best of you, to practice a love that ‘believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things, never fails’.
The problem is, I have been trained to perform for a grade, and oh, I was good at getting the grades. Now, all of a sudden, no one is giving me a gold star for doing the dishes, or an A for changing a nappy. ‘Well? Why is no one telling me how I’m doing? Could someone pay me, at least?’ (For money is the ‘grade’ the adult world gives you.) So I try to find a label I can stick on my forehead – something, anything people will see as valid and valuable. ‘Full-time mother’ doesn’t seem to impress sufficiently, so I try other labels: ‘volunteer for the biggest mission organisation in the world!’ or, more subtly, ‘most servant-hearted person around’ or ‘most passionate worshipper’. Yes, unfortunately, my inner Martha can even disguise herself as Mary, disguised as Martha, disguised as Mary. It’s like one of those Men in Black movies where they keep pulling off rubber masks.
I taught ‘Green Olive Tree’ to a friend of mine, Bethy, and we sang it together. Then she said ‘Wait a minute, what did I just sing? Do I want to be a green olive tree? What does that even mean?’ The answer is, I don’t completely know – maybe it’s a hidden mystery, maybe it’s a secret. Maybe that’s the point. ‘For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.’ (Colossians 3:3-4) I’m pretty sure that when the Desire of the Nations appears, and every eye is captivated by his beauty, all the certificates I can wave in the air will not turn even one head. The most impressive thing I could say in that moment is, “I’m with Him.”
Green Olive Tree
Preoccupied, distracted, these words I find describe me well
This working hard, this serving you, could it be that I’m serving myself?
If I could break it down to one thing, if I could break it down to one thing, Jesus,
I would like to be a green olive tree in the courts of my King
Spirit, blow my leaves wherever you would please, I will choose this one thing,
So starry-eyed and radiant, o let these words be true of me
This loving you and being loved, what greater calling could there be?
Here I am, here I am,
in Your presence,
You can have me,
take it all, Lord