Hiding Beneath the Surface

Most people are familiar with such images of icebergs. This famous one is not actually a legit photo but is a composite of 4 images taken in different locations by an underwater photographer. Regardless, it reveals the reality that much or the iceburg lays hidden under the surface. We use this image to illustrate such realities in ourselves and others as well. People only see some of who we are by the things we say and what we do but they do not see all the hidden content. People do not see the depths of our pain or our possible histories of trauma and abuse. They don't see it and the truth is neither do we much of the time.

We don't see how our behaviors are connected to the ways we learned to cope with hurt when we were relatively young. Some of us fought, some of us shut down, some cried and some didn't but what we all have in common is that we were formed by those moments in life. People use drugs, over eat, get into codependent relationships, run away, and a million other unhealthy things that we do to sooth and get by. What gets confusing is when you start realizing that some of your activities your proud of have some similar motivation mixed in there. You work out, are disciplined, study hard, work hard, achieve, lead, serve etc. Eventually as you look inward at that mass below the surface you begin to realize that I lead because of a need for control, serve because I need to be needed, study and work hard because that's what I actually believe makes me valuable and wanted. We do many things for reasons that are beyond our reasoning. Our actions and lives are like this iceberg barely poking out of the surface. So much that we are is hidden and submerged inside.

This reflection has me raising many questions. What is it that is actually showing? What is it that we want to show? If we, being human and having will, are able to make decisions about what we allow to show above the surface then maybe we can make strategic choices about this reality of our being. Is there a part of me that I keep submerged that would actually be healthy to let out? Are there parts of me showing that should really remain beneath the surface? Will our relationships with others be different based on what we show and what we hide?

I think many of us have answers to these questions even if we have never stopped to consider it. We make decisions all the time about what to hide, what to bury, what to say and what not to. Our lives are the answers to this question. We decide to hide those things in us that are shameful and weak. We hide in embarrassment. We hide, for the most part, what we know is wicked. We hide our lusts and our rage and our insecurity. Some of us hide by engaging socially and hide in plain sight. Others retreat away from such interactions and hide in seclusion. Some of us get busy and some of us use humor but we all know that hiding is an important part of our being.

Then we show much on purpose as well. I think our facebook account clearly demonstrate how we put effort into presenting a certain story or image about ourselves in the world. We are mindful about what we allow to, or make sure that, shows. We try to remain humble and know how boasting can come off but we still want to be seen, noticed, listened to and respected. We hang degrees on our office walls, post accomplishments on our twitter feeds, and put our best foot forward in most social interactions. We want to be thought of as kind, smart, thoughtful,generous, and respectable people and we make every effort to let that be the part of us that is seen.

Hiding and being seen are very related. First of all it seems that only so much of us can float above the surface and we know just enough about ourselves to know how much we must never allow to emerge. We want to be seen as generous and we know our greed and covetousness inside, we want to be seen as kind and we are all too aware of that murderous voice in our minds. We must hide and be extremely careful about what it is we allow to show. This is all a part of the way that we have learned to get by in this world. It is like a dance that we learned at a very young age. We know what gets us punished and we know what gets us praise, we know what makes us feel bad and we know what activities make the pain lessen. We know and we function accordingly.

What troubles me is that I had not really sat and considered these things and made a willful decision as much as I had been conditioned and pragmatic in my development. Well would I do anything differently after contemplating? Wouldn't i see the pragmatic benefits of this way that almost all of us have settled on? This is where I think Christianity challenges everything about this mode of being in the world. Jesus was no advocate for such a natural state of being. Jesus would tell his disciples and followers to hide certain things about themselves but they were not the things that we hide. He said to pray in secret, fast in secret, and give in secret so as not to pursue credit for such things. He cautioned his followers about their own tendency to seek rewards among people in such actions and that our motives matter. Jesus knew that we often do wonderful things for hideous reasons and the best of actions can be unhealthy for us too. Jesus and the early church would then challenge the community to confess their sins to one another. Tell one another those things that you so desperately don't want them to know. This community would encounter grace in realizing that they are not alone in there struggles and that they were still loved and valuable. Jesus would challenge us to turn the entire iceberg upside down. Maybe the same small amount is all that can possible stick out of the water but he would challenge his people to let that part that shows be what they most want to bury and to bury and hide that thing they most want others to know.

What might happen among us and in our relationships if we would muster the courage to obey him in this? What would happen if my friends saw those things in me that I am convinced that they would not love me if they knew. Would I find myself all alone or might I encounter community and the truth that in sharing those parts of me that I am no longer alone? What wisdom might there be in hiding all of those things that I think make me valuable and wanted. Might I realize that I am valuable as a human being regardless of doing. Might I stop striving to be noticed and loved and find that by not striving for it I am noticed and loved. Might we confess to one another only to bond in deeper community than we have ever known? Could it be true that I could expose the darkness in me only to find it losing power by being brought into the light?

Jesus knew the wisdom of hiding and taught us to do what we rarely see done. Hide your virtue or accomplishments and display your struggles and weaknesses. This is the wisdom that we find being exercised in 12 Step meetings in little rooms all over our city. The 12 Steppers have found the healing and transforming power of God in forming communities around their confession of powerlessness. It is the ability to share your weakness that is the only requirement for participation. They are communities of the weak and when we visit them we find within these communities strength unlike anything we have ever known.

The way of Jesus turns everything upside-down. What we long to hide he calls us to expose, what we parade around he instructs us to hide,  in what we see as weak and vulnerable he demonstrated the power of God and what we do to get by and live he would see as death. He is calling out to us as though we are Lazarus in the Tomb to arise to life.


  1. As I was reading I was thinking of how much I agree, but also I had a certain degree of questioning, and I hope it is not from a state of defiant denial. I wonder, when thinking of the passage about the talents, how does that fall in? Is it not the opposite of hiding that Christ asked from us for the good things in us are from Him. Perhaps it is not that we should hide giving, or prayer. Did He not say these things to show us to deny giving from a rotten heart, and to get rid of these things, as opposed to burying them? Does that even make sense?

  2. I totally agree with this post. Thank you. I feel as though I am in somewhat of a similar place...
    When I stop to think that I don't even know why I do the things I do, I've just always done them...thinking how it is funny how we can become proud of serving, because then is it really serving? Like "yay, I went here and here, helped this person." It rings of arrogance, even if I never said a word. I am coming to find that all the strength comes when we have lost it, control that is. When we realize we can't do it anymore, only Jesus can. We come weeping our pretty, sparkly, resume-building shields down at His feet. He knew it all along, that it was just a mask, but LOVED us anyway! CRAZY! AND THEN! To move out of grace! Just now learning what that means. "8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast." Ephesians 2:8-9 It's just totally insane, totally crazy for Jesus to do that (in my eyes)...I can't even wrap my head around it.

  3. Juanidibuja, first of all you should always have a 'certain degree of questioning' no matter what you are reading. We must be discerning in our pursuit of Truth and careful not to be taken captive by hollow and empty philosophies.
    As far as the passage about the talents, I think that that passage clearly condemns the man who 'buried his talent' and the master wondered why he had not at least put in in a bank to collect interest. He did not 'do' anything with what he had. Doing is extremely important. It is what we do that demonstrates what we believe. I agree with James hear that faith without works is dead. If you think a hurricane is coming you board up windows and buy bottled water, if you believe I am going to hit you you duck or flinch and our beliefs will always manifest themselves in our lives. The trouble is when we say we do believe something that doesn't get applied in our life. Could such a faith be genuine? When I wrote in this post about doing as a means of coping, as a state of being. We are human beings that have innate worth and dignity regardless of doing. Our doing however is an important product that grows our of our being. You are right that we must not bury those things that God has clearly called us to do. We should be active in kingdom mission and aggressive in loving our neighbors. I think to neglect this would be to bury such things and I would not overlap the image of burying with hiding. Jesus never said 'if' you give to the poor or 'if' you fast, rather he said 'when' you pray, hide it. Doing was implied.

    It is a hard tension to live in isn't it? You serve and then struggle with pride AND you have been called to serve and spend yourself on behalf of the poor. Our motives matter but so does the action itself. Its like that mysterious connection between the heart and the mouth in scripture. Whenever you see either of those words you will see the other very close by. 'May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart', 'out of the heart the mouth speaks', etc, etc. So how could I change the way I speak? I need a heart change. But how can I change my heart? I need to speak differently. Its the chicken and the egg! We just find ourselves in that constant state of "GOD HELP ME!!" That is the cry of sobriety. We must press on and repent as well. You are right that this strength is found in the loss of control, that is surrender.
    Step One: admitted I was powerless
    Step Two: Acknowledge my need for God
    Step Three: surrendered to God
    Step four: made searching a fearless moral inventory
    Step five: Confess to God, myself and another human being the exact nature of my wrongs.
    Step Six: became willing to have God remove these defects of character
    Step Seven: humbly asked God to remove these shortcomings
    Step Eight:Made a list of all people that we have harmeds and become willing to make ammends
    Step Nine:Made direct amends to those people, except when to do so would harm them
    Step ten: continued to take moral inventory and WHEN (not if) I am wrong promptly admitted it.
    Step Eleven: Continued, through prayer and meditation to puruse my conscious contact with God
    Step 12: Share these steps with others.


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