Monday, December 10, 2012

BookPastor >> "Embracing Obscurity"

We do not not need visibility, recognition, or awards in order to justify our worth. Being an unknown to the world may not be a bad thing. More importantly, it refocuses our attention to realizing that God knows us. 

This book review was first published at Panorama of a Book Saint on October 1st, 2012. 


TITLE: Embracing Obscurity: Becoming Nothing in Light of God's Everything
PUBLISHER: Nashville, TN:B&H Publishing, 2012, (180 pages).

This book very title is worthy fodder for us to ponder upon. Have we become too fixated on recognition and visibility? Have we really learned what it means to be humble? For disciples of Christ, have we actually understood the significance our smallness, and the bigness of God? In a world of fame and fortune, dying unnoticed, or living in obscurity may be scary, even despised. Perhaps, what is essential for us to realize is that life is not about a popularity contest. Neither is it about storing up possessions and accolades for self. It is about denying ourselves the natural addictions to worldliness. This is what the author of this book aims to do. Through embracing obscurity.

Leading by example, the author chooses to remain anonymous in the writing of this book. Being obscure is the antidote to self-seeking desires. It is a cold-turkey treatment for people intoxicated with narcissism, individualism, selfishness, and a heightened sense of personal pride. The way the book is laid out forms the framework of recovery from any warped sense of self-importance.

The author begins by giving readers a chance to realistically remind themselves that we have a choice to be obscured by God or by choice. The rest of the book is based on the assumption that the reader has chosen the latter. In other words, if we do not plan on learning humility, be prepared for a humbling experience, even humiliating. Nine points are listed. First, "Embracing obscurity" has full of biblical support. Second, it is centered on living like the humble Jesus, whose very life is the anti-thesis of worldly pride. Third, our true significance is not in what we can accumulate for ourselves, but based on what God has declared for us. Four, true success is not about attaining physical pleasure, increasing material possessions, or reaching our achievement targets, or running after the things of this world. It is about embracing the things of God, like desiring God's will, working for heavenly rewards, serving one another, contentment, wisdom, and many more. Five, key to living a life of personal obscurity is to learn to serve others. If the tower is a symbol of worldliness of achievement, the towel is a symbol of servanthood. Six, the author deals with the necessity and the willingness to suffer. In suffering, we learn the "Joseph principle," and to use suffering as an opportunity to grow in humility and obscurity. Seven, becoming nothing may be strange and mysterious as far as the world is concerned. For the humble servant of God, it is a mystery that motivates one toward depending on God more for all our needs. Eight, the author gives us some tips with regards to embracing the spotlight through a right understanding of our three purposes in life: Glorify God; Advance God's Kingdom; Serving Others. Last but not least, we are urged to embrace hope, that as we live with Christ, as we suffer and die with Christ, we too will be resurrected like Christ.

My Thoughts

This book is a wake-up call for those of us who are high-achieving people. Many of us try to live for Christ through activism and accumulation of things and awards. Asking God to bless our working, we can confuse our achievements with pride and then pay lip service to praising God for everything. The truth is, we are really recipients of grace rather than winners of the race of life. The moment we claim credit for ourselves, we are already barking up the wrong tree. The book is also an inspiring call for those of us who feel down and out, suppressed or ignored by everyone else. Take heart. We are encouraged to press on, for even when the whole world ignores us, the Maker of the whole world is watching out for us. That is a comforting truth.

When I was first approached to do an early review of this book, my key question was "Why?" After all, I have so many other books to review, all waiting in the pipeline. Upon reading the synopsis and the message of learning to embrace the little or the nothing we are, so that we can glorify God above, my question shifts from "Why?" to "Why not?" It is the message of anonymity, of obscurity, and of invisibility, that makes this book a very unique one. It reminds me of another classic work on prayer, called, "The Kneeling Christian" written by An Unknown Christian and published by Zondervan many years ago. That book has since become public domain. Every chapter comes with a discussion guide. Every chapter is filled with biblical support. I do pray that this book will not be pushed to the obscure corners of bookstores or booksellers. It is a worthy message to spread. Start spreading this message by buying this book.

Well done, anonymous author, whoever you are. It's a pity I may not really know who you are.

Ratin: 4.5 stars of 5.


This advanced reader copy of the book is provided to me free by B and H Publishing without any obligation for a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied. (Book is available from October 2012)

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