If indeed the spiritual life is essentially a hidden life, how do we protect this hiddenness in the midst of a very public life? The two most important ways to protect our hiddenness are solitude and poverty. Solitude allows us to be alone with God. There we experience that we belong not to people, not even to those who love us and care for us, but to God and God alone. Poverty is where we experience our own and other people's weakness, limitations, and need for support. To be poor is to be without success, without fame, and without power. But there God chooses to show us God's love.
Both solitude and poverty protect the hiddenness of our lives.
Henri Nouwen, from Bread for the Journey
I know I don’t pay enough attention to this, to protecting my own hiddenness. (Of course, some might say that blogging about it was the worst thing I could do—but I do try to be careful not to get too personal here, and to write about things that might be helpful more generally.)
We do have to be aware of this stuff, I believe, as God calls us further into this wilderness. Like Christ, when the enemy offered him the chance of instant fame by jumping off the temple and floating gently to earth amid the other worshippers, we must keep our hearts close to Scripture—“I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you (Psalm 119.11 NIV)—and avoid trying to use what God has given us for our own advantage (Luke 4.9-12)
Just at the moment I am struggling slightly with this. There are gifts God has quite explicitly given me, and in some cases restored to me after they were lost or neglected, like music and writing, which I worry about using too enthusiastically just because of this need for hiddenness. Solitude and poverty, while they may as Nouwen suggests, help to protect our hiddenness as people of prayer, are becoming a hunger in their own right, something I can’t do without, and which I’d do (I hope!) anything to protect in themselves.