Have you ever hidden something on purpose and then when it’s time to bring it out, you can’t find it because you hid it so well? It’s the worst! When Maya was born, we had grandparents and aunties come stay with us so they could meet her and give her lots of cuddles. At some point, someone had to stay and sleep in my music room and I distinctly remember hiding my song notebook so no one opened it up and read my lyrics. This notebook is way more personal to me than a journal. Not only do I use it to put my unfiltered heart on paper, I write out and try to process my deepest, toughest questions for God (and also try to make them rhyme!). I was so nervous someone would find it, read it, and then nonchalantly toss it aside as if it weren’t my most prized possession.
Anyway, after many months of sleep deprivation because of our newborn baby, I went back into my music room to write. But I couldn’t find my notebook anywhere! I remembered hiding it, but just didn’t remember where I put it. It was a horrible feeling. All of my hard work, the countless hours and tears I had poured into that notebook, and the revelations that came in my most precious moments with the Lord were gone. I searched and searched and still couldn’t find it.
But in the midst of my panic I heard the Lord whisper something profound:
“If you hide it, you’ll lose it.”
It was crystal clear and super simple. For me, I knew it meant, “If you keep hiding your music -your gift – from the world, you will lose it.” It wasn’t a threat, but a kind warning and I definitely paid attention.
I eventually found my notebook – Thank you Jesus! – and I’ve made the decision to share my heart and my music with others (with you!), because I don’t want to lose the gift God has given me. But I’ve also been thinking recently about how this reality of losing what you hide not only applies to my musical giftings, but also to how I live my life.
Matthew 5:15-17 says, “Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
This verse definitely makes clear that we need to let our light shine in this world. But what if we choose to hide our light? I wonder because honestly, I haven’t gone out of my way to let people see my light. In fact, I’ve made excuses as to why I should hide it. So what happens if we decide to hide the light within us from the world around us?
After thinking through this verse in context of the time it was written, a lamp was actually a lit flame or candle. Scientifically, if you put a bowl over a candle, the light will go out because every flame needs oxygen to keep burning. In Sunday school we used to sing, “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine,” and in one of the verses we would put our finger up to our mouth and pretend to blow out our candle singing, “I won’t let Satan blow it out.” But I’m beginning to wonder if, unbeknownst to us, we have become the ones who have put out our own light.
Of course, none of us ever intend to lose our light. But if we keep hiding it, I believe that is exactly what will happen.
So why do we hide our light in the first place? Here are a few reasons why I have done it:
1. Staying hidden is safe.
For me, hiding feels safer because I’ve allowed the opinions of others to rule my life. If no one sees me, no one can judge me. If no one sees me, no one can question my motives. If no one sees me, no one can say anything negative about me. The fear of man – or “people pleasing” – has caused me to hide my light. I’ve often caught myself wondering if people will misinterpret my intentions if I let my light shine. I wouldn’t want others to think I’m prideful or conceited. I’ve even gone so far as to make the excuse that not shining is actually the humble thing to do. Then I look back at that verse which says we shine so that others “may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
It’s not about you and me. It’s about His glory.
2. Staying hidden is comfortable.
Putting our light on a stand sounds scary because it is. We are making ourselves vulnerable because when we are seen, we are held accountable for our actions. If we say we believe something and then act in a manner contradicting that belief, we become hypocrites. Living in the light is uncomfortable because not just our good works but also our flaws and imperfections are clearly seen.
But I’ve come to understand that this is actually the way we are meant to live. No one is perfect, and those who make themselves out to be perfect aren’t, and actually appear untrustworthy because they are hiding something. Another thing to remember is there will be haters and nay-sayers and downright mean and jealous people who don’t want to see our light. We have to shine anyway. Something that continues to help me overcome my fear of the opinion of others is a quote credited to Mother Theresa which says:
People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway.
What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.
Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.
In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.
3. Staying hidden is easy.
There has been a strange dichotomy in my life where I have desperately wanted to be noticed and seen and to connect with others, and at the very same time I have refused to show up because I was afraid of being noticed and seen and truly connecting with others. I think this comes back to the fear of disappointment and rejection. We’ve all been there. We finally muster up enough courage to reach out in vulnerability, expecting someone to reciprocate our effort, but come up empty and lonely. It is utterly depleting.
Rejection stings because it feeds the lie that we really aren’t lovable and that we really aren’t wanted. In those foggy, hurtful moments we have to become still enough to recognize the lie for what it is – and root it out. And then come back to the truth. The truth is, we are already loved more deeply than we can even imagine. In our brokenness, we have to fall back on that. And then we get back up and try again. Anything of lasting value won’t be easy to attain. Deep, meaningful relationships require tons of effort and take time to cultivate. Though it’s difficult, we cannot stop trying, reaching out, being vulnerable, and shining our light. The people who are supposed to be in our lives will show up and stay. Those connections and relationships – when God brings them along – are so worth the struggle.
Though we may have our reasons for hiding, I don’t think they possibly can outweigh the beauty of shining. There is a brilliant, bright light within each one of us, intended to bring hope, and love, and joy to the world around us. But if in self-preservation we choose to hide our light, we may end up losing it.
In my own life, I am still learning how to let my light shine. It still feels unnatural. I still choose to hide sometimes. But God knows my heart and my intentions, and has covered me in His grace and mercy. Every day is a new opportunity – and today, I choose to shine.
I hope you will too.