Last weekend at Hutchmoot, the Rabbit Room’s annual conference, my friend Matthew Clark sang a song called “Beautiful Secret Life.” If you don’t know that song, you can hear Matthew sing it (and introduce it) here.
The verses tell stories of people whose good work seemingly goes unrecognized—the friend who writes songs that only his intimates hear, the sister whose service to the poor makes her a mother to many but earns her no accolades. “If I hadn’t told you, you’d never have known,” Matthew sings.
When you do good work, you hope people will notice. Indeed, if I’m being honest, I often do work so that people will notice.Yet most of us find that the wider world pays very little attention even to our best work. If you work for the world’s recognition, you’re liable to get your heart broken. “Fame is a spotlight/ Good for blinding a man.” But that’s not the whole story. The chorus continues,
But the Lord counts the hairs
On each un-famous head,
And he keeps you like a secret,
Your beautiful secret life.
Your good work doesn’t go unrecognized.The Lord knows the hairs on your head, and he is pleased when you do the good works that he prepared in advance for you to do, whether that is good artistic work or other kinds of good work.
In last week’s episode of The Habit Podcast, I spoke with Katelyn Beaty about her book, Celebrities for Jesus. Celebrity, as we discussed, is the state of being loved and admired by people you can’t love back. That is not a recipe for health. Whatever work you do, there are people who need it and benefit from it—people whose faces you know, whom you can love and admire back. Before you seek out the approval of people you don’t know, I hope you’ll have eyes to see the people who are already glad you exist, glad you’re adding beauty to the world. I hope I’ll have eyes to see it too.
And even if your nearest and dearest don’t notice the work you do, you are seen by the God who numbers the hairs on your head. As you cooperate with the God of all grace, do not grow weary in well-doing. As Matthew Clark sings,
The universe keeps on expanding
Cause maybe that’s how much room it will take
To store all the stories,
All the well-hidden glories of grace.
This song could go on forever,
Endless verses the Lord only knows.
The best tales begin in the quiet…
Yes and amen. May we thrive in the quiet, in the dark, in the hidden places where grace begins to grow.