This week I noticed an article from Donald Miller getting tweeted and facebooked by some good friends. Miller’s a great writer and the article is no exception (you can read it here). In it he explains why he chooses to keep quiet about faith and recognises the power of a quiet, private spirituality.
Lots of comments followed with many people heartily agreeing. Some questioned the validity of the piece, a best selling author who has turned his book into a film encouraging others to be quiet about their faith seemed ironic at best (something not lost on the author himself who acknowledges it early on).
It’s the point at which “go to a quiet place” meets “let your light shine” and both seem to bump heads. Miller’s point of view raises questions and challenges about keeping quiet and choosing to behave privately when it comes to faith that are well worth considering.
Recently some friends and I were looking at the story of the cleansing of the leper. In it, Jesus instructs the man not to tell anyone about what has happened but instead go to the priest to show what has happened and get cleansed. The question of why did he says “don’t tell anyone” has been discussed for centuries with lots of possible reasons given and theories shared.
As we looked at the story a thought came to mind – what if Jesus realised he would just be a distraction?
The leper needed to get to a priest so he could be declared “clean”. This was not a simple process and would take some time but when all was said and done he would be restored to his community. The impact of exclusion would be no longer felt and he would once again be welcomed back.
Maybe this story isn’t about healing at all.
Maybe it’s not about challenging the rituals or law of the day.
Maybe Jesus wasn’t worried about too much publicity.
It could be that what we see in this tale is a much simpler, but altogether more difficult act being lived out – the simple act of getting out of the way.
A physical miracle, a healing of a disease, the kindness of reaching out to a leper are all beautiful things. But what if more beautiful than all of those combined is the humble act of acknowledging that restoring someone to other people matters more than anything else? Recognising that the gift of restoration matters more than anyone’s reputation?
At a seminar we attended recently on adoption the speaker told us that one of the challenges for people of faith trying to adopt is language – “God told me too” might make perfect sense within the context of church or small group but if we’re honest it can sound like madness anywhere else. People shared concerns that saying anything else was us “hiding our faith” or “being ashamed”. But what if the message of this story is that actually not only is it okay to “not tell anyone” – it’s actually encouraged?
The irony of me writing a blog about all this isn’t lost on me. Perhaps I should’ve pondered it all in my heart instead…but I don’t think that’s what Donald Miller was getting at. He dares us to ask why we do things and then make our own, hopefully better, choices.
There are clearly times to share faith and for me, there are clearly times to get on quietly with living it. But perhaps the difference isn’t about cultural sensitivity or hiding from anything but instead in the simple notion that sometimes when we put ourselves or our talk of faith aside we make room for even more beautiful things to happen.