I recently read and reviewed the book Embracing Obscurity, which was written by an anonymous author, and encourages the reader to pursue the low, servant path of Jesus. The book really impacted me, and I wanted to interview the author. Unfortunately, I still don’t know the identity of the author. But, through his/her publisher, I was able to do an interview!
I hope you benefit from the interview, and would encourage you to read the book.
Have you written books prior to this one? What made you decide to write this one anonymously?
Yes, I have written books before this one. So why would I chose to write this book anonymously? For two reasons: One, because I realized early on that I’d feel like I’d win the World’s Biggest Hypocrite Award—at least in my own heart—if I wrote a book about humbly embracing our relative obscurity on this earth while simultaneously smiling for the camera, so to speak, and trying to make a name for myself. Second, this was just a radical message for me—for the Church—and I felt the Spirit prompting me to decrease radically from that message. I didn’t choose anonymity as a gimmick to generate book sales; instead—hopefully—to underscore my sincerity and belief in the importance of embracing an obscurity of heart. Trust me—the message of Embracing Obscurity has decimated my career ambitions!
Does your immediate family (spouse, kids, etc?) know that you wrote this book?
Frankly, I couldn’t not include my spouse in the message that was causing such personal upheaval! What a blessing to travel this road together. But my kids, parents, siblings, close friends—no, none of them know anything about it. Again, it just seemed like this particular message demanded that I take myself from the equation as much as possible. The whole process has been a boot camp of humility, and a surprisingly rewarding one at that.
What are some practical, daily suggestions you would have for fighting against pride?
I genuinely wish I had a five-step fix-all for pride. But we’re talking about sin here, not fixing a car. The solutions to overcoming sin are always less obvious than we’d like. Keeps us dependent on our Savior, right? I do believe that God is enough—His salvation and His Word. As we really examine our own personal love affair with self, practical and convicting suggestions leap from Scripture. These suggestions are all taken from verses speaking directly to pride:
· – Serve others (Luke 22:26-27)
· – Humble ourselves by settling for less than we “deserve” (Luke 14:10-11)
· – Fear the Lord (Prov. 8:13)
· – Embrace wisdom (Prov. 11:12)
· – Commit our actions to the Lord (Prov. 16:1-3)
· – Live humbly and do right (16:18-19)
· – Don’t trust ourselves; live by faithfulness to God (Hab. 2:4)
· – Associate with the lowly, for Christ’s sake. Strive to be least (Luke 9:48)
· – Receive God’s grace to stand against evil (e.g., prideful) desires (James 4:6)
· – Don’t boast about our plans, but submit them to the Lord (James 4:13-17)
That’s a big list. If it’s a little overwhelming, I’d say to start with 1) serving others, and 2) settling for less than you deserve. Actually practicing just those two commands puts me in my place every time! There isn’t a one-size-fits-all cure for our individual pride, but God’s Word does hold the cure for each of us if we’ll search for it.
In our celebrity fascinated, “post it to Facebook” culture, what are some practical ways that we can embrace obscurity?
Man—I’ve really wrestled with this! We do live in a culture that lives and breathes social media, and it’s so tempting—and easy—to follow suit. Social media itself isn’t the problem, of course. But we’re human, and our sin makes it way too easy to define ourselves by likes, shares and comments, and to seek some “celebrity” status. Our predisposition to pride temps us to craft that blog post so that others will think we’re super spiritual, or smart, or funny. Again, social media isn’t the problem, but it can easily become an addictive vice to those of us already struggling to think humbly of ourselves (i.e., ninety-nine percent of us who use social media).
Embracing obscurity isn’t about wiping ourselves from existence, but I do think it’s beneficial to wipe ourselves from virtual existence every so often. Whether we fast from social media completely or by degrees, temporarily or indefinitely, that kind of detox has a way of uncovering dangerous heart issues that are keeping us from truly being okay with our obscurity. In the book, readers get to hear about my own run at unplugging completely from social media—and what that did to my psyche! I was shocked at the sin it revealed in my own heart.
After a solid fast, I think it’s wise to limit the time we’re online, screening the topics we post about and really examining our motives. And it wouldn’t hurt to remember that Proverbs 27:2 does, in fact, apply to retweets: “Let another praise you, and not your own mouth.”
How does a person in a public position (pastor, author, worship leader, blogger, etc.) embrace obscurity?
At its core, embracing obscurity is largely the same whether you’re known to ten people or a million. It’s a heart issue. Service, surrender, suffering well, understanding our true significance and identity—those attitudes are vital whether we’re barely known at our church, or making world headlines.
That said, those in the spotlight—the pastor, leader, blogger, author, etc.—are in greater danger of being blinded by our pride. We have to guard against it like nobody’s business, or we’ll quickly fall prey to The Saul Syndrome, which I explain more in Embracing Obscurity.
But practically, day-to-day… This little list hangs where I’ll see it often, reminding me to use the spotlight for the right reasons and in the right ways:
· – My purpose is not to praise myself.
· – My purpose is not to make my name great.
· – My purpose is not to get rich.
· – My purpose is not to gain authority over others for my ego’s sake.
· – My purpose is not to leave brothers and sisters in the dust of my ambition.
· – My purpose is not to make others feel small.
· – My purpose is not to become self-sufficient.
· – My purpose is not to earn a five-star rating from the masses.
I do hope that the book is only the beginning of the discussion about how those in the spotlight can embrace obscurity in the right way and for the right reasons.
It seems that there is a certain freedom in embracing obscurity – in not caring if anyone knows about you. Have you experienced this freedom?
I can honestly say that I’ve been—is flummoxed too strong a word?—by the freedom to be found! I don’t think any of us realize just how deep the roots of pride run until we sacrifice to Christ our desire to be known, admired and respected by the people around us. It’s the surpassing peace and pleasure to be found in embracing obscurity that excites me most to share this message.
The day the book came out, there was no fanfare, no congratulatory shindig, no one to tell me “good job” or “aren’t you clever.” There was just me, and the One who has always taught by example—the One who Himself chose obscurity for my sake and yours. It was ironic, and freeing, and right. And while I’ve still wrestled with wanting to know what readers have thought about the book, this genuinely has been a whole new paradigm. Instead of worrying about star rating, I’m addicted to the freedom found in embracing my own obscurity.
Do you have any thoughts on embracing digital obscurity? We are all so eager to share what we have accomplished online. What does it look like to embrace digital obscurity?
I think you’ve hit on it right there, Stephen. We’re becoming conditioned to parade our accomplishments across the digital waves and don’t stop to question our motives.
I’m not trying to be too simplistic, but I think we need to ask ourselves a simple question before every blog post, tweet, Facebook update, etc.: “Am I posting this to make myself look good, or to make God look good?” In other words, am I posting this because I want others to think I’m cool, important or going places in life, or because I want others to think that God is awesome, all-powerful and has given them life? Am I posting because I’m convinced I need to raise a tribe of followers to successfully build my kingdom, or because what I have to say could potentially build God’s kingdom?
What is the one, main thing you want people to take away from your book?
To question. To question why we do what we do and who we’re aiming to please. To question how we define success and why. To question whether our lives look mysterious in light of the glorious Gospel, or whether we live, love, lust like the rest of the world. And to question whether the hope of glory is reason enough to embrace obscurity today.