How I Arrived at Christian Obscurity

How I Arrived at Christian Obscurity

In the fall of 2020, I found myself in court testifying before a jury about my relationship with my dad. I had been prepped ahead of time by our family lawyers to share what it was like growing up as his daughter. And one of those questions addressed what my dad had taught me over the course of my life. My dad was a gifted mechanic and engineer who could fix anything. He also was an avid outdoorsman who loved hunting. But I couldn’t really say that he taught me much about any of those things, and I struggled with how I would answer that question ahead of taking the stand.

But as I prayed about how to answer that question, a clear picture of my dad on a road construction site fixing a scraper came to my mind. No one driving through that construction site would take note of this man in denim overalls and covered in hydraulic fluid, yet he was a critical component to that highway project’s completion. He worked in obscurity throughout his career on Kansas City road construction projects.

Someone could live a full and meaningful life—loving their family and friends, pursuing excellence in their work, walking with the Lord—without the layers of complexity and noise the world insists we need to pile onto our lives.

Sarah Jo Austin

As I testified, I shared how Dad taught me how to live a simple and quiet life. That someone could live a full and meaningful life—loving their family and friends, pursuing excellence in their work, walking with the Lord—without the layers of complexity and noise the world insists we need to pile onto our lives.

Since the trial, I have continued to chew on the invitation throughout the Bible to live a quiet life. Our Shepherd invites us to be lead by still waters in Psalm 23. Jesus promises to give rest to our souls when we take his yoke upon ourselves (Matt. 11:28-30). Both Peter and Paul exhort us to live tranquil and quiet lives (1 Thess. 4:11; 1 Tim. 2:2) with gentle and quiet spirits (1 Peter 3:4).

Throughout Scripture, we also find examples of this inconspicuous life in pretty much every one we meet. Moses spent forty years working as a shepherd before he encountered the Lord in a burning bush. David, too, was just the kid brother in a family of shepherds before the Lord called him up to be Israel’s king. Peter grew up to be a fisherman before Jesus called him to be a fisher of men. Lydia was a wealthy widow before confessing Jesus as her Lord and Savior and financing Paul’s work. What was God doing in these lives before we meet these people? That information is hidden—obscured—from us, but I have a hunch that God was doing important, formative work in these lives before we ever meet them and then in between the chapters of big, historic events.

I have a hunch that in between the big events of our lives—the births and graduations and marriages and career changes and deaths—that God is doing important, formative work that is obscured from 99.9999% of the world.

Sarah Jo Austin

And I have a hunch that in between the big events of our lives—the births and graduations and marriages and career changes and deaths—that God is doing important, formative work that is obscured from 99.9999% of the world. I did the math. With 8 billion people on the earth, 0.0001% of the population is 8,000 people. For most of us living today (and certainly those living throughout most of history), to know or be known by 8,000 people throughout our lifetimes is generously rounding up. Only a relatively small number of people will really ever know who we are, see the work of our lives, and watch our spiritual journey. 

Yet at the same time, we have the opportunity to live fully known to God, which is a value far greater than being known by a great number of people. We have the opportunity to recognize that God knows us far better than we even know ourselves and live wholeheartedly in that vulnerable place with him. After all, he created us, he knows every hair on our heads, and he is the one authoring and perfecting our faith.

Christian obscurity: The practice of living an inconspicuous life while also living fully known to God.

Sarah Jo Austin

That’s why I’m here. I’m here to journey with you in Christian obscurity: The practice of living an inconspicuous life while also living fully known to God.

Do I have it all figured out? Nope. Do I have more questions than answers. You bet. But I think that in  contemplating these things there’s also an invitation from the Lord to choose a path that is barely visible because few choose to walk it. The trail might be mostly indiscernible but that’s because only our Guide knows the way. Let’s follow him!


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