Character · Photography

The Spiritual Discipline of Secret Beauty

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Read the story here!

One of the few magazine subscriptions we renew without fail is Texas Monthly. Apart from being both informative and entertaining, it keeps my bluebonnet roots grounded and my stomach homesick for good Tex-Mex (lo siento, El Charro) .

I was wonderstruck while reading the most recent edition which spotlights the photography of James H. Evans. Dedicating himself for years to the vast landscape in and around Big Bend National Park, he was privileged to capture in his lens a once in a lifetime spring season during 2015. Due to uncharacteristic weather patterns and rainfall, the wildflower crop was what he described as the “hundred-year-bloom.”

In a normally stark mountainous desert, wildflowers bloomed abundant, “fanning out like carpet across the desert floor and up mountainsides.” Yet hardly anybody saw this rare display way down south on the border, in a county whose population boasts one person for every square mile and a half.

The photographic story of this lonely desert jumped out of the slick pages and preached a sermon my heart needed to hear.

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In this digital era of loud and on display, there is something deeply satisfying and sanctifying in works of quiet beauty created in secret places that few, if any, will ever see. God delights to bring forth art in the ravines and gulleys of lives. In quiet small encounters, love blooms most extravagantly.

Matthew 6:3-5
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. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Psalm 51: 6
Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.

This is the story of Jesus. Born in a quiet out of the way place. Serving the majority of his earthly life in anonymity as a humble carpenter. Within his ministry, doing most of his work in the desert borderlands of society. He encourages us to pray in the closet, fast in secret, and to give without the other hand knowing.

His example leads us to cultivate pockets of quietly beautiful obedience.

He knew we’d have trouble handling our own press. It skews the heart’s intention and knocks right perspective clear off the table. Deeper intimacy grows with God when we submit to the discipline of keeping our mouths shut about some of the things he asks us to do. A secret act of obedience shared between you and your Father is like flinging wildflower seeds on a desert hillside. We practice our right place in the world when we leave it up to him to decide how and when those seeds grow.

Too often I reject a call to love because of its quiet persona. Too often I dismiss a prompting and instead take up a louder and shinier choice of my own making, choosing the applause of others over the glory of God.

“Nobody will know.”
“What a waste of time and resources.”
“Maybe next time.”

Yet the desert preaches, “Do not despise the small out of the way places of life”.

Cultivate seeds in quiet trust and he will expose blooms in his perfect way in his perfect time. Spiritual disciplines and acts of love practiced in secret, for an audience of One, echoes the heart of Jesus.

The spring of 2015 in the West Texas desert proves that secretly awesome stories are the best.

1 Corinthians 2:7
God’s wisdom is something mysterious that goes deep into the interior of his purposes. 

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