Book Review: Embracing Obscurity


There’s a funny thing that happens to people whenever they get a bit of notoriety (perceived or otherwise): They tend to get really excited about it. It starts out innocently enough—honest surprise that people are paying attention to what they’re saying or doing. But eventually, we can too easily slip into thinking we’re a kind of a big deal.

It’s not that influence is wrong, but for the Christian especially, being a “somebody” may be more dangerous than we realize.

The author of Embracing Obscurity gets this. Choosing to remain anonymous, the author confronts the dangers of pursuing notoriety while challenging readers to regain a right perspective of who we are in light of who God is.

Regardless of who we are and what we’re capable of, most of us are going to obscure, unknown… we’re not going to be “somebodies” (whatever that means). Anonymous wants us to be okay with that. Rather that continuing to perpetuate our cultural addiction to self-importance, we must embrace the kind of humility that Christ modelled (cf. Phil 2:6-8).

Indeed, Anonymous reminds us that Jesus Himself, for the majority of His earthly life was, by all accounts, kind of a nobody.

Have you ever wondered what might have filled the space between the apostle’s narratives? What transpired between Jesus’ birth and His first miracle at Cana? Apparently nothing worth the gospel writers’ ink. We are left to assume the details of His early life based on the details of our own, normal lives. Jesus got taller. His voice deepened. He probably learned to work at his father’s business. He became a man, a wise man who found favor with the people who knew Him, and favor with God. But to most He was just Yeshua, Mary and Joseph’s oldest kid—a small-town boy with a love for God. With such a common name, He could have been any Yosef, Loukas or Yohanan! Nothing to raise the suspicion of his fellow Jews that He might be the long-awaited Christ, hidden in plain sight. It was all just the way God wanted it.

This is very helpful for us to remember—an average life isn’t less glorifying to God. In the years between His birth and public ministry, Jesus perfectly glorified God in all he said and did, yet he was pretty normal. Nothing to write home about. He wasn’t living an audacious-world-changer-rock-your-socks kind of life.

He worked with His dad. He did chores. He went to Synagogue.

He was, more or less, like us. And if that was good enough for the God of the universe for the better part of 30 years, it ought to be good enough for us, shouldn’t it?

To be clear, Anonymous isn’t advocating that Christians shun public influence. He’s not suggesting that those whom God allows to receive wider appreciation and/or acclaim hide under a basket. Instead, he calls them to embrace the spotlight as Christ did—giving glory to God and pointing others to Him, rather than succumbing to our pride. We must remember that such “success” isn’t due to our accomplishments, ultimately, but to the grace and purposes of God:

We don’t deserve special privileges, luxury living or a higher level of respect from others because of our talents or bank accounts. We can’t excuse snobbiness, hoarding or passive-aggressive pride because we won the popular vote or appeared in Adventure magazine. Some privileges and accolades may come in our lives, but if we start feeling entitled to them, we’re already flirting with the Saul Syndrome [a deadly combination of pride and the fear of man]. All our successes, and all the earthly rewards that come with them are from God. It’s all from God. We can’t pretend we’re ultimately responsible for our success any more than a homeless man can ultimately blame society for his homelessness.

Is Embracing Obscurity the final say on the matter? Not remotely. But it’s an important opening to a necessary conversation. We all, regardless of the level of public influence afforded to us, need to wrestle with what it means for us to decrease so that Jesus’ renown would increase (cf. John 3:30). I trust Embracing Obscurity will give you a great deal to consider and might challenge you to discover where you need to become less in others’ eyes (and your own) in light of Christ.

Title: Embracing Obscurity: Becoming Nothing in Light of God’s Everything
Author: Anonymous
Publisher: B&H Publishing (2012)

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