I read this book about three years ago and it would go on my list of top 10 books that have changed my life and point of view. Reading this book opened my eyes to the joy and gift of anonymous seasons. The first time I read this book, I had just finished college and was ready to take on the world. I was waiting for the spotlight and the accolades that other friends my age were receiving. Children’s ministry is a very important part of the church – one of the most important parts, if you ask me. However, children’s ministry isn’t glitz and glamour. It’s also a very behind-the-scenes ministry. Granted every few months there is a showcase event like Fall Fest, Easter Eggstravaganza or Kid’s Choir that gets kids in front of the congregation. For the most part, children’s ministries take place down a long hallway in classrooms away from the hub of the main church action. Little Johnny and Susie may have an awesome time at church, but their parents might often view the classes offered as childcare (something that gives them an hour and a half break). The point is that children’s ministry is often tucked away and it’s not a line of work where you get a lot of spotlight time. Just a few years ago, I learned the valuable lesson of anonymous ministry. After reading this book, I decided that the kids I minister to know the effort I put into it. Kids are surprising grateful that people are interested in them and care. I decided if my only audience was children and the Lord – that was going to be good enough for me. All that mattered was that I was doing what I was called to do, regardless of how many thumbs-up and high-fives I got.
Okay, now to the book, I just recently reread and it continued to let its message penetrate into my soul. Chloe uses the example of a tree. Trees have many seasons. In spring and summer, you can see the tree blossom and bloom. This a fruitful season for the tree where it’s growth and beauty is very evident. There are also seasons like fall and winter, where the tree is stripped of its leaves that adorn it. Chloe brings out the point that in winter trees are bare, but they are not barren. Life is never still. Even in what seems like a barren season, there is still growth occurring under the surface. Chloe also use the illustration of an iceberg – only 10% of an iceberg is visible, but it’s 90% of unseen mass is powerful and strong. This visual of an iceberg is how we tie into Jesus’ life and story. Jesus lived 33 years on this earth, but most of His time on this planet is hidden from us. Chloe puts it well when she says, “Jesus was born in Bethlehem in a smelly animal pen (followed by hidden days). He was circumcised in the temple on his eighth day (followed by hidden months). Before turning two, Jesus received a visit from Eastern wise men (followed by hidden years). At age twelve, Jesus got in trouble for staying in the temple, listening and asking questions when he was supposed to be with his parents’ family headed back home (followed by almost two entirely hidden decades).”
Jesus was familiar with being hidden and with being underestimated. His greatness in ministry didn’t just happen overnight, but it was built through decades of anonymity. Chloe uses the example of Jesus being tempted in the wilderness to showcase what grows in hidden seasons. We can see that Jesus had developed a great understanding for God’s word. He not only had the Words of the Torah in His mind, but He knew their meaning and how they applied to His life. We see that Jesus was able to turn down the three alluring things that Satan threw his way – appetite, applause and authority. I know that my own personal longing and desires drawn towards being recognized and important. However, having these opportunities without the strength that hidden year can build may be dangerous. The equation that Chloe uses is “10% visible + 90% unseen = an indestructible life.” We can see how this was true in Jesus’ life as he suffered not only through desert seasons, but through rejection, punishment and a death he didn’t deserve.
Chloe brought up the point that we can say we want to be like Jesus, but it seems that we have restrictions to that statement. We don’t want to be hidden for almost 90% of our lives, we don’t want to be rejected by our own people, we don’t want to be beaten and abused. We like the public, encouraging stuff, not the hard stuff. Through reading Anonymous, I am reminded that the winter/desert seasons in my life have great benefit. Even though my tree might seem bare, it is not barren. Because life is always is moving, I can grow and develop great strength in seasons of anonymity. If I truly want to become more like Christ that means I need to learn and grow from the hard situations. I need to be developing inner strength and integrity when no one is looking. Someday when there is an audience, I will have the spiritual muscles to make the right choices, because I have been making them the entire time. This book is a must read and one that I am sure I will reread every few years. It has given me a different perspective on my life and on my ministry. If 10% of Jesus’ life was visible, I will be happy with my 10% and not try to make it more. I will grow when no one is looking so that when the right opportunity comes my way, I will be prepared.