What does being a missionary look like working in finance? Most of my day involves making sure bills get paid, reports get compiled, and missionaries get walked through budgets and expense reports. I believe deeply and passionately that where I am now is in obedience to God and builds the Kingdom, but it’s easy to lose sight of that when a lot of what I do doesn’t look like what culturally might be dubbed “ministry”.
I read a couple books recently that got me thinking of the many ways our society, and really the Kingdom, is driven by people who operate daily without being seen.* Maybe I was drawn to them because I sometimes indulge dreams of being in more visible ministry. It often feels we live in a culture where extroverted, visible leadership is glorified, even in church and ministry circles. It has moved me to look for the unique rewards of serving in the background.
I don’t think I’m alone in finding it easy to get addicted to outside approval — the feeling of being adored, approved of, applauded gives anyone a jolt of good feelings. That feeling can be addictive. Yet I’m becoming aware of a special sweetness to doing something that no one but God sees — laying down my life in a way that is just pure obedience, nothing quantifiable other than feeling God’s pleasure and the love of what I have been called to do. Here are three things I’m learning to appreciate about being invisible:
The power of integrity. The strength of my integrity is never great than when I choose to do the right thing when no one is looking and probably no one will ever know. The choices I make in secret, usually the small ones that seem insignificant, build the strength of that integrity for when it the big things loom. It’s part of walking the way of the cross — denying the desire for ease or gain to do the right thing. Those choices bear the kind of fruit that is truly satisfying.
The power in prayer. It’s hard not to seem trite when talking about prayer as the unseen work, but it is the ultimate invisible ministry. Many needs cross my path during the day, big and small, and it’s a challenge to take them to prayer before tackling them with my own resources. In those times I do remember to pray, I get to be part of what God is doing and am blessed. It’s like an inside joke or special secret between God and me.
The power in small things. Early in my Christian walk, I thought of ministry as intense moments strung together and earnestly sought those moments. With some years behind me, it feels more like a hike — slow and steadily climbing. It seems like doing the things in front of me and being faithful doesn’t seem like much until I look up and see something beautiful that God has done while I’ve been moving step by step. If I focused on what was seen, I would miss those beautiful things.
So these days I’m trying to cultivate a love of invisibility. I’m finding power in the invisible and unseen things God is doing and trying to keep my heart in line with His purposes. I am thankful to be able to spend the bulk of my hours, my treasure, my energies, my mind and my talents doing the largely unseen work. And I am fighting my bend to want to be seen and affirmed so I can gain the greater joy or pleasing God.
*If you’re curious the books are:
Invisible: The Power of Anonymous Work in an Age of Relentless Self-Promotion by David Zweig
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain