“Times of obscurity and anonymity, our back stage times, can be precious when they are in the hands of God.”
The following is a Christmas devotional I was asked to write. It was written primarily for today’s artists, radio professionals and podcasters who create and present what is known as contemporary Christian music.
Its born out of some deeper things my wife Irene and I learned together during our time off last summer. Hope it blesses you. Merry Christmas!
A Key To Our Life Is Found Back Stage
When Jesus was born, he was delivered on a small front stage where only a few guests were invited to watch. Soon after, he was whisked away to lesser known back stages in Egypt and Nazareth. It’s interesting to observe how little we actually know about the life of Jesus. His back stage life lasted 30 years. When you consider the few accounts we have of his childhood years followed by his three short ministry years, it’s almost stunning to realize that as Christian music professionals and artists we base our entire faith and ministry work on only about 36 months of Jesus’ life on earth.
What was happening during Jesus’ first 3 decades? Why didn’t God return Him to the front stage sooner? I mean, think of all the additional work He could’ve accomplished! But this is another reminder that God’s ways are not our ways. There may be something of value here for us to learn; times of obscurity and anonymity, our back stage times, can be precious when they are in the hands of God. Perhaps there’s a lot more to life than what we see from the front stage!
We read that during Jesus’ early years while He lived in obscurity “he grew in wisdom and stature.” (Luke 2:52 NLT) This happened before He attended the wedding in Cana, before His many teachings in the synagogues, and before His feeding of the 5,000! Those were each front stage activities visible to the public. Yet before all that began it was when he was back stage, the Bible says, “He grew.” I used to think His first 30 years were a waste. I now believe those years were significant and prepared Him for what was ahead.
My friend and author Stephen W. Smith in his book The Jesus Life writes “In those hidden years, all thirty of them, the tender soul of God was shaped and formed [in Jesus]…Learning to embrace obscure seasons and hidden years yields a richness in our lives that frees us from the demands to be applauded…When we read the Bible, we meet many characters whose lives and hearts were shaped not by the limelight or through fame and fortune, but by living out ordinary, if not hidden, lives.”
Consider the story of Joseph found in Genesis. Over a 13 year period he was betrayed and forsaken by his own brothers, falsely accused by the wife of a government official, and wrongly thrown into prison. Only a changed life, a heart tenderly shaped and formed by God during those dark back stage years could’ve later responded to his brothers by saying, “You planned evil against me but God used those same plans for my good…you have nothing to fear…I’ll take care of you.” (Gen 50: 19-21 MSG) Consider also Moses. He was raised among royalty. He later committed murder and fled into obscurity where he remained for years. While in his secluded back stage setting and without any fanfare, God came and spoke to him. The ground became holy and Moses was transformed. Only then he was returned to the front stage.
We all are aware the Christmas season can surface all kinds of emotions. Some of us will feel joy, deep gladness, and a sense of belonging. Meanwhile other people will feel very depressed or disappointed with themselves, or with others. They may regret career choices they have made and feel stuck. As believers who are tasked with ministering to others, we ourselves can be in a very dark place, feel unimportant or like we’re living in obscurity, having less joy and more frustration and discouragement. And when that microphone is turned on and people are waiting for our words, we know deep down we’re speaking about a life we aren’t really living.
Don’t give up this Christmas season! Take heart, for there is good news of great joy! A key to the Christian life is found somewhere back stage! Another friend and author Lance Witt writes in his book Replenish, “The Christian life is inside out…the private informs the public. He [Jesus] taught that out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks. He taught that the root [back stage] determines the fruit [front stage].” Again, a key to the Christian life is found back stage!
So much emphasis and pressure on what is important in our industry, for both the media professional or artist, is about “the show,” whether that show is on the radio, in a podcast, or at a concert. The challenges we all face together trying to honestly reach our culture with the love and message of Jesus, demand a lot from us on that front stage. We want to be prepared, equipped and ready for it. While the front stage is all about the “fruit,” our back stage is all about our “root.” Let’s accept and embrace where we are and who we are, with all our weaknesses and strengths, in our seasons of anonymity, our back stages where God can do His deeper work in our lives, just as He did during those obscure years in the lives of Joseph, Moses and Jesus.
This Christmas season let’s allow Jesus to shape and form our hearts, replenish our souls, and create a richness in our lives that frees us from the need to be applauded or be in the limelight, but prepares us for it!