I graduated college convinced: I would change the world for God. As a college student, I volunteered with a high school ministry, sharing the gospel with hardened-to-Christ teens. And I was all in.
The year I left college, I joined the high school ministry as full-time staff. I was on first for God and ravenous to see what He could do. I judged others who were going to waste their 20’s on anything I deemed to be of lesser value. My 20’s would be focused on impacting lives for eternity.
The annual highlight of our ministry was the week we took a bus full of living-loud adolescents to camp. On the last night, those who had decided to follow Jesus were given the chance to stand up and announce this life shift. After camp, I came home to an even longer list of lives I wanted to influence. When teens are “on fire” for Jesus, their unchurched parents start showing up to church on Sunday, asking questions, and joining Bible studies. The life-stories fueled me. They validated my calling and my passion. They kept me in it.
Lives around me were changing, but my life had grown stagnant. I’d have dinner with a teen who’d just asked Jesus into her heart and find myself mindlessly repeating answers I’d said for years. I’d go home and carve out space to sit with God, except when I got there, time alone with Him felt awkward, like I was talking to a distant acquaintance. I didn’t know quite where to start.
I knew God was benevolently disposed toward me, but I’d always assumed His benevolence was also connected to my producing something for His kingdom. When I felt productive in ministry, it wasn’t hard to imagine that God had loving thoughts toward me or that He looked at me with warm affection. I had a harder time trying to imagine what He might be thinking about me during the hours of the day when I wasn’t doing anything tangible for Him.
I realized I had been driven to see lives change, but I also craved the validation I received when my life made a notable impact on someone else’s. Over time, the deep satisfaction I’d found in my work lessened. So I left the ministry I admired.
I took a break from telling others about Jesus and found a part-time job. For well into a year, I spent my afternoons amid bouquets of imported French lavender, handcrafted soaps, and Italian pottery at a boutique. Sometimes I banked no more than five transactions in a day. It was a life I swore I’d never have – unproductive. A colossal waste of my time, energy, and gifts.
But to the surprise of my heart, that quiet little storefront became a place where I met God. I brought my Bible to work and cracked it open behind the register. I had hours unplanned for one of the first times in my life. I talked through God’s Word with Him, and I did it slowly, absorbing who the person was within those stories. I discovered layers of God’s nature I hadn’t considered when I was barreling through life, when He was only a leader and a coach to me. Slowly, my desire to see and feel who He is within the pages of His Word prompted me to look at the lines on His face. He had a gentle loving expression. Toward me, who was doing nothing for Him.
He is a God who looks deeply and knowingly into us when no one else is looking or noticing.
In a year that appeared to be a waste by all my ministry productivity standards, I grew desperate to lock eyes with God and see His real expression toward me. Every ordinary minute of my day was slowly becoming an opportunity to encounter God’s unwavering gaze, this tenderness I’d not known so intimately before, when I was highly productive.
There are times when God tucks us away from the rest of the world. He might hide us in a difficult job or an unwelcomed circumstance. We feel misunderstood, like no one gets us. He might hide us in a crowd where we feel lost or unseen. Behind the front doors of our homes, changing diapers and burping babies. He does all this so that we might see another side of Him. He is a God who looks deeply and knowingly into us when no one else is looking or noticing. We come alive under his loving gaze.
I discovered that what was unseen, my roots buried beneath the surface, gave life to the trunk and branches I showed the world. I learned how to pour out my life at His feet, forsaking productivity. A beautiful waste of time.
Adapted from Unseen: The Gift of Being Hidden in a World that Loves to Be Noticed Copyright © 2017 by Sara Hagarty. Used by permission of Zondervan. www.Zondervan.com. All rights reserved.