Sunday, 30 May 2010

What you do in secret

In his excellent book, The life you've always wanted John Ortberg speaks about one of the great addictions of our age, which he calls approval addiction. Although not everyone is afflicted with this malady, it's common enough to merit serious attention. It consists of living our lives at the mercy of other people's views of us.

John Ortberg writes about when he stands to preach


"What will they think of me?" the voice wonders.
Sometimes I feel less like the prophet Amos and more like Sally Fields at the Academy awards. I find myself wanting to be able to say, as she did after winning her second Oscar, "You like me, you really like me!"
I do not like the voice of Sally Fields, I wish I had more of the Rhett Butler voice and could greet evaluations after a service with, "Frankly my dear...."
When Jesus spoke he was free from the need to create an impression..."

He makes other very helpful points, all based around Jesus teaching in Matthew 6.3-4
But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

Ortberg goes on to speak of what he calls, the practice of secrecy.
Here is the practice in a nutshell. Every once in a while do something good and make sure no-one knows about it.

I was reminded of this when I cycled to the market town of Olney a few days ago. The last mile or so is a lovely ride across water meadows. As I crossed the narrow river bridge I saw a local man collecting rubbish along the river bank which had been left by youngsters who had enjoyed the hot weather with some impromptu river swimming. There was no-one about-except me-to observe this 'random act of generosity', and it touched my heart and brought to mind the practice of secrecy.

By the time I had the thought I had cycled on and then I remembered I had my mobile phone with me. So stopping quickly I took the photo, already the litter collector had moved on, and perhaps it's right that he just looks anonymous in the distance.

Once Churchill rather cruelly remarked that Clement Attlee was, 'a modest little man with much to be modest about'. Ortberg's response is that 'I already have the second part of that description down. The practice of secrecy offers the hope that one day the first half might be attainable one day'.
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