Main Theme: Christian Living/Leadership
For People Who: Are in an “in the meantime” period in life between where you’ve been and where God wants you to be.
Every now and then you come across a book and think to yourself, “Is the author reading my mail?” Anonymous is one of these books. Alicia Britt Chole seems to know how you are feeling to the point it’s almost scary. When you feel like you’re in an “in the meantime” period of life. When you’re in a season of anonymity. When you know God has called you and given you big dreams, and yet you are failing to see the fruition of those dreams in reality. Anonymous deals with the hidden years of Jesus Christ – that 90% of His life we know very little about. But from his visible life, we see what He was able to learn in those hidden years. It’s these lessons that Alicia Chole brilliantly grips the heart of each person going through hidden seasons of life and fills them with encouragement and challenge to continue moving forward and trusting God. After reading this book I understand why it was on so many reading lists. Being divided up into 52 short (a few pages) chapters, I could see it being a great devotional study as well.
In hidden years, God is our only consistent audience. Others come and go, but only He always sees…Anonymous seasons afford us the opportunity to establish God as our souls’ true point of reference if we resist underestimating how He treasures our hiddenness and take the time to decide whose attention and acceptance really matters in our lives. –Anonymous, pg. 47
Big Take Aways
- God wastes no man’s time. Every season of our life, whether hidden or visible, is a time that God is developing us, using us, or maturing us.
- Never underestimate hidden seasons of your life. They are preparatory moments – so don’t complain through them and miss what you were meant to grasp.
- You are always made stronger by hidden seasons. It’s the 90% of hidden iceberg that makes the 10% of visible iceberg so powerful. If we skimp out on the hidden, the visible will be short-lived.
- The temptations of Christ are still the temptations we face today: temptations of appetite, applause, and authority. Jesus learned to deny those temptations in His hidden years and so must we.
In the daily rhythm of anonymous seasons, it can become exceedingly difficult to remember that every choice we make today influences a tomorrow we cannot see. Anonymous, pg. 91
Here follows a very brief summary from portions I found extremely helpful and challenging.
When we say things like, “I want to be like Jesus,” usually we say it with a few exceptions in mind. We don’t want to spend 90% of our time/life in anonymity and only 10% in visibility. We don’t want to face His temptations, His desert seasons, His hidden seasons, and ultimately His crucifixion. We want the visible part. We want the part where crowds follow us! But we must remember that Jesus’ hidden years are what prepared Him for the visible 10% of His life. Think in the terms of growing a plant: “All that is to come rests greatly upon the plant’s ability to tightly and sightlessly develop roots in unseen places.” (pg. 13)
…the strongest influences on the decisions Jesus made in the desert were the choices he had been making before the desert. In hidden places over hidden years, Jesus’ choices clustered and created momentum that is revealed through the decisions He made in His public ministry. Anonymous, pg. 17
The Temptation of Appetite
When Jesus was baptized a voice from heaven declared “This is my son, whom I love. In Him I am well-pleased.” Wow! After 30 years of hiddenness, what a debut right!? But Jesus isn’t ushered into the public view. Instead, He is lead 40 days into a desert. There, He, in His human nature, is tempted by the devil. The first, is the temptation of appetite. He was hungry. Go figure – no food for 40 days, I bet He was! The temptation was to turn stones into bread. The temptation was for immediate gratification. “Why continue to hunger when it is within your power to feed yourself?” (pg. 65) Christ’s temptation was not so much to prove who He was, but to act like who He was. Take the easy way out! No human could turn those stones to bread. Since you are the Son of God…act like it!
It is in hidden seasons that we learn self-control. To deny our impulses and desires – the appetites of our souls. “Self-control is not conferred or awarded; it is cultivated and accumulated…perhaps no other space in life is more critical for the development of self-control than the hidden years of our teens, twenties, and thirties.” (pg. 87) Learning to discipline ourselves must be cultivated and learned during our anonymous seasons.
Emotions are not truth’s vocal twin, and feelings are not the litmus test for reality…Truth, on the other hand, was born to lead. God’s truth clears the fog in our minds, provides much-needed boundaries for our emotions, and empowers our wills to choose well. Anonymous, pg. 73
The Temptation of Applause
Jesus is then taken to the highest point of the temple and told to throw Himself down. Wow – what a show that would have made for the 1000s of people walking beneath them. What a way to start out your ministry, Jesus, by showing to the world who you really are! The applause He was tempted with, as are we, is defined by Chole as, “the public affirmation of our value, gifting, and contributions.” (pg. 101)
It is in our hidden years that we develop a disciplined imagination. Too often, during these seasons, we imagine what it will be like when we become visible. We let our minds wonder and without knowing it, we become discontent with our current circumstances – sometimes to the determent of our relationship with God. The applause, awe, and admiration of man is not worth spending our lives. “Testing” the Lord (asking God to prove Himself) in this way, Jesus said, was not permitted. He would wait for God’s timing.
God’s patience with our unappreciative attitudes of spiritual entitlement is positively baffling, especially when we, like the Israelites, have already been the beneficiaries of His abounding grace and generosity. -Anonymous, pg. 106
The Temptation of Authority
Jesus was then taken to a high place and shown all the kingdoms of the world. Authority which had been given to the devil, he would give to Jesus. With that kind of authority, think of all the good that could have been done! “End child prostitution…find a home for every homeless soul, protect the helpless, prosecute drug traffickers, etc” (pg. 130-131) THAT seems like a temptation. In exchange for His soul, Jesus would be allowed to do a great deal of good. “In essence, Satan asked Jesus to trade the eternal for the visible, which is something he still invites us to do every day.” (pg. 135)
Jesus had made the choice long before the temptation, that He would submit to the will of the Father and no other. To bend His knee to any other, even for good reasons, would cause utter failure in His mission. But Jesus wasn’t scrambling for an answer when the temptation was given. It was in hidden years that Jesus had already come to terms with his mission, His purpose, and His grip upon the holy scripture – the Word of God. It was an anchor for His soul that tied Him to truth – the measuring stick of reality.
So the next time you ask, “Jesus, help me be like you,” stop and reflect on if you’re willing to spend 90% of your time in hiddenness and maturity and preparedness and only 10% in visibility. Are you ready to face temptations of appetite, applause, and authority? Are you going through life driven by your desires and self-gratification? Do you struggle with the attention and approval of man to the point that you’re willing to put God to the “test” in order to prove Himself? Are you losing your soul for a good cause but bending your knee in submission to something other than God?
This is an inspiring and encouraging book, but it is also a gripping one. I usually knock out a book in a week or less, but this one took me two weeks. I couldn’t eat it all at once. I had to read for a bit, reflect, then pick it up again, and reflect. It took time to digest; I’m STILL digesting it. Reflect on some of Chole’s final words:
“Were you accurately estimated? Were you appropriately recognized? Were you sufficiently applauded?” Those questions will not even come close to making the list when we see Jesus face to face. But other questions will make the list, and I desperately want to be prepared for them…”Did you love me? Did you love others toward me? Did you obey me?”…The pre-tests for that moment occur in uncelebrated places, in private thoughts, in unseen attitudes, in secret chambers of my heart – hidden to others but always visible to Father God. In the end, I long to see Him look over these tests, smile and say, “Well done.”
Information and Personal Rating
- Title: Anonymous: Jesus’ hidden years…and yours
- Author: Alicia Britt Chole
- Published: 2011
- Pages: 194
Personal Ratings (1-10)
- Applicability: 10
- Readability: 10
- Originality: 10
- Recommendation: Yes!