Practice of Secrecy
It is hard for me to keep a surprise. With the help of Elvis West, CPC's Social Media Specialist, I recently put together a video tribute for a friend's retirement party. The video was filmed at a local golf course a few weeks ago. It was then sent to the fellow who was responsible for editing all of the submitted congratulatory comments into one montage to be shown at the retirement event. Well every time I saw my retiring friend prior to the party, all I wanted to do was pull out my phone and show him the video! I'm just not very good with containment on those kinds of things.
Part of this inability comes from an enthusiasm (love language?) in giving. It really is more blessed to give than receive (Acts 20:30)]. But if I'm entirely on the level, part of this inability comes from my desire to be viewed favorably. I want to be well-liked and known as that great friend or family member who does nice things for others. I don't allow things to stay under wraps (figuratively or literally), because I want to be noticed. In this admission, I acknowledge that I have not learned the discipline of secrecy very well.
In the greatest sermon ever preached, Jesus talked a great deal about keeping things quiet. "But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing ... when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret ... when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret ... " (Matthew 6:3, 6, 17-18). In Jesus's kingdom, there is something to be said for keeping secrets, especially when those secrets nurture humility and protect us from the pride that comes from public lives of righteous living.
In writing about the spiritual discipline of secrecy Jesus espouses in the Sermon on the Mount, Dallas Willard in The Spirit of the Disciplines says, " ... one of the greatest fallacies of our faith, and actually one of the greatest acts of unbelief, is the thought that our spiritual acts and virtues need to be advertised to be known ... secrecy, rightly practiced enables us to place our public relations department entirely in the hands of God ... we allow him to decide when our deeds will be known and when our light will be noticed." When we desire the right kind of secrecy ... then love and humility before God will develop to the point that we will not only see our friends, family, and associates in a better light, but we will also develop the very Christian virtue of desiring their good above our own. Paul expressed this same truth to the Philippian church when he told them to "Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others." (Philippians 2:3-4).
Perhaps this practice of secrecy is why Jesus urged many who he healed not to reveal his identity. Perhaps this practice of secrecy is why Jesus avoided the crowds and would often go off to lonely places to pray. Jesus placed his PR department in the hands of God, even when misunderstood or mistreated. He never felt the need to reveal surprises in order to be thought well of.
We can follow Jesus more closely by being discreet with surprises and secrets. We do not have to do things in order to gain the approval of others when our persona is handled by God. Like Jesus, we can practice secret piety, secret prayer, and secret giving. "And your Father who sees in secret will reward you" (Matthew 6:18).