Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Obscurity…Breakfast of Champions

“A voice of one calling in the desert…” Matthew 3:3

Obscurity. Just the thought of the word leaves a sour taste in my mouth. Obscurity is the condition of being unknown. It is the state or quality of being obscure; darkness; dimness or indistinctness. It is being an unknown or unimportant person or being. How often has someone caught a glimpse of their future, a goal, a dream or a vision and, in a desire to pursue this, took a giant step of faith and walked right into Obscurity?

Ugh, what a bitter pill that is to swallow. This is what happened to John the Baptist. Luke 1:80 tells us this about John: “and the child grew and became strong in spirit: and he lived in the desert until he appeared publicly to Israel.” (emphasis mine)

Living a relatively uneventful life may seem normal, but John was no ordinary person. In the same vein of Abraham and Sarah, John’s parents Zechariah and Elizabeth were old,  childless and had an extraordinary supernatural encounter before conceiving their son. Through an angelic visitation, Zechariah learned that he and Elizabeth would be the parents of one who would: “make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” In our modern vernacular, John would be the Messiah’s “advance man”.

It would seem logical, given this child’s destiny, that the finest of education and career development would have been a top priority. That was not the case. If left up to some of us, we would have seen to it that lessons in public speaking (You need a catchier phrase than REPENT”), dressing for success (“Ditch the camel hair and go with something in a nice linen.”), networking to gain a wider audience and broader appeal (“You’re not going to reach the masses out here in the wilderness, gotta move to the big city.”), and maybe even a copy of “How to Win Friends and Influence People (“Did you have to call the Pharisees a brood of vipers? For Heaven’s sake, leave Herod and his wife-stealing to the tabloids!”) would have been in order. The Messiah would need a slick, smooth front man and we would have just the right tools to produce one. Somehow, John sidestepped the opportunities to be groomed for his upcoming public ministry by the experts of his day, and instead, spent years of preparation out of the public eye, in the desert.

For me, Obscurity has all the appeal of eating lima beans. Ok you lima lovers skip this portion, you will not be able to relate to my analogy. Lima beans make me gag! Eating them is akin to chewing on little bags of wet sand that taste nasty. I would rather go hungry than eat limas. That said, Obscurity is not one of my favorite dishes either. When one takes on the pursuit of a dream, Obscurity is not what you would pick to sustain you through the process. God, however, often has a different menu than what we would choose. John was not the only person who spent long years being an unknown. Moses, David, Joseph, Paul and even Jesus Himself feasted at Obscurity’s table for extended periods of time. Why does God have a penchant for putting people that He desires to use on the “back burner” where no one (and to some degree even themselves) knows who they really are?

Let me share with you a few “ingredients” of Obscurity that could just make it the “breakfast of champions”.

First – Obscurity is a place where one can privately begin the process of counting the cost of pursuing one’s goal or vision and discovering how willing one is to expend the “blood, sweat and tears” necessary to bring this to fruition. Are you willing to work at what you believe is your mission even when no one else can see what you see and believe it is possible?

Second – Obscurity can afford you an opportunity (if you choose to take it) to know God more intimately and to learn to depend on Him completely; recognizing that if He does not lead the way, you are going nowhere. Learn this lesson now while you have or are nothing of note. When your dream becomes reality your foundation will be secure because you know firsthand Who led you out of Obscurity and into Notoriety.

Third – Obscurity give you the place to gain experience without the burdens and pressures of a high profile. For me, starting out as a teacher, I could do a lot less damage teaching a class of fifth and sixth grade girls, using a preprinted Sunday School lesson, than I could have taking on a packed auditorium of adults and using my own developed message. The ability to do that has taken time. I still have not had that latter type of opportunity…but, if and when the time comes, I am prepared. I have learned the value of continuously working on my skills even when the audience is small to nonexistent.

Fourth – Obscurity has a measure of safety attached to it. John was not in danger of losing his head when he was out in the desert. No one was looking to crucify Jesus when He was just a local carpenter. No assassination plots were formed against Paul when he was out in the Arabian desert. When recognition comes, after laboring for what seems like an eternity, remember this…the spotlight that highlights and showcases you also illuminates the target on your back that your enemies and critics will be aiming for. Don’t let that fact frighten you or cause you to give up. Use your time in Obscurity wisely and prepare for this aspect of promotion.

Fifth – Obscurity is not all about you. It is also about God and His perfect timing. He had a master plan laid out before we even existed and at last check, He isn’t looking for our input or approval, just our co-operation. Jesus Himself experienced this very thing. At twelve, He was in the temple confounding the teachers of the Law. He had come to the understanding that He had to “be about His Father’s business”. He then spent eighteen more years as a carpenter, just a local guy, no one special, before God released Him into His ministry.

Back to John the Baptist. When he finally burst on the scene to begin what was a very brief stint of ministry, John was focused and singleminded. He referred to himself as “the voice of one” (emphasis mine). He had only one goal and purpose in mind, to prepare the people to experience God. He deflected any claims to fame or celebrity status. When Jesus appeared, John proceeded to point the people and his own disciples away from himself and to the Lamb of God. John’s own admission about himself: “He (Jesus) must become greater and greater and I must become less and less.” John knew his mission and stuck with it until it was accomplished.

Nutritionists and dieticians have for years stressed the importance of a good breakfast. This should be the largest meal of the day because it provides our bodies with the fuel needed to operate at peak performance. We should intake the right balance of protein, carbohydrates, etc. to give our systems everything necessary to operate efficiently. Perhaps, that is how Obscurity can be the “breakfast of champions”. Being in the background for an extended period of preparation gives us the chance to develop a solid foundation that we can build and operate upon. We see God using this very thing in the lives of Moses, Joseph, David, John the Baptist, Paul and even Jesus. Each one went through a protracted period of being set aside to simmer, so to speak, only to emerge in God’s timing, strong and fully equipped for the task at hand.

Perhaps you have found yourself in a place where you have big dreams and visions and no one seems to know you even exist. You continue to work toward your goal, but it is like eating the same old “mush” for breakfast everyday. Eat heartily. The place where you are can be the very thing, that with God’s help, takes you from being just a dreamer to a doer. Don’t give up, persist, be content and follow what God has placed in your heart. Pick up your spoon for another bite and you may just find that this time the “mush” has now “mushroomed” and you are living your dream. 


  1. What a poignant article. Being faithful and consistent where God has you now is the proving ground for what He has ahead for you. Welcome Obscurity. Thank you for preparing me for what's to come!

    1. Mary, An OUTSTANDING piece. John the Baptist is a favorite character of mine. No kidding, I was just reading about him in Luke's gospel this morning! Thank you.