“Books aren’t written – they’re rewritten. It is one of the hardest things to accept, especially after the seventh rewrite hasn’t quite done it.”  –  Michael Crichton.

The real art of writing is rewriting. I have discovered over the years the importance of revising, or rewriting what I have written. If I am writing a letter, a sermon, a devotional, or a blog, I revise it to improve it and then revise it again to make sure it effectively communicates what I am trying to say. A sermon, for example, is a work in progress that I craft and then polish as I go. I try to get input from several people and as a result, the sermon you hear on Sunday has been reviewed, analyzed, revised and tweaked or even overhauled several times. In my experience, you rarely produce your best work without some revisions. And this whole process of making writing better, making better sermons, preparing effectively, takes place behind the scenes in relative obscurity.

If you had the ability to talk to the great writers throughout history, I would think most of them worked behind the scenes to hone their craft. But in order to hone their craft the writer has to be patient and cognizant of why this process is necessary and productive. It is hard to be patient and develop your skill in obscurity when you would much rather be basking in the bright lights of the New York Times best seller list. It was Taylor Caldwell who said, “It is human nature to instinctively rebel at obscurity or ordinariness.”

I’m sure you see where I am going with this. Christians would prefer not to be honing their craft any more than the writer would. As a Jesus follower, it’s easy to get caught up in wondering when God is finally going to bring us out of the shadows. It is easy to become discontent with where God has us. Sometimes, we may even think that God is punishing us when we are asked to continue to hone our relationship with Him in obscurity. The writer will eventually understand the value of honing his or her writing skills, and likewise, the Christian will eventually see the value of obscurity. It is always a challenge to wait; in fact, it goes directly against the grain of our human nature. It may be that discouragement is ready to pounce as you are left to wonder whether or not the obscurity will ever end. It may be that you lack the depth necessary for the next step, the wisdom for the next decision, or the experience for the next phase, but God is at work in you. He is developing you while you labor in the shadows. There are no shortcuts. We tend to forget that God is just as interested in doing something in us as He is in doing something through us. There are valuable lessons that are best learned in obscurity.

God is showing us the open book of our life; the first half of it was filled with writing whereas the second half was blank. He wants to write on the blank pages because He is the Author and Finisher of our faith. He wants our lives to be best sellers, to produce fruit. Obscurity is not the storyline. God is rewriting your story. Obscurity is tapping into God’s insight into your life, about learning to write a better story with your life. Don’t fear obscurity, nor neglect the transformative work that Jesus does in your heart when no when is looking.   

Discussion Questions

  1. Do you believe that much can be accomplished in obscurity? If not, why not?
  2. Does obscurity require vulnerability? Humility? Patience? 
  3. What can we do this week to make obscurity a more effective learning experience?