The Sacred Rhythm of Public & Private Life


tina osterhouse - the sacred rhythm-3

I’ve been discouraged the past few weeks. Seattle has to be one of the most dreary places to live in the middle of winter. We’ve been in the thick of incessant rain, gray clouds, and short days.

The weather has been frustrating, but mainly, I’ve felt discouraged about my life as a writer. I love to write. It’s my favorite thing to do in the whole world. I find my truest self—my real thoughts, my deepest fears, and my courage on the page. But in the era of social media, Twitter, Facebook, and counting platform numbers, it can feel like a tsunami I’ll never be able to get on top of.

How does a writer, who works in quiet, who loves to be alone, and who is sometimes afraid of her own shadow stand up to be seen?

How do we writers make our little voices heard in the cacophony of all the noise coming from every single direction?

Particularly, how do we stand out as peacemakers? I don’t want to fight on every social media platform. I want to glean wisdom and set my roots down deep in authentic friendships, and in real conversations that make a difference.


When John got super sick a week ago, we both realized there was no way he’d be able to preach. I offered to take his place. I had less than a day to figure out what to speak on.

The Scripture passage he’d chosen came from the first part of the gospel of Mark, when Jesus does all this amazing ministry—healing the sick and casting out demons. Crowds follow him all over the region. Smack dab in this passage, is a short two sentence description about how Jesus got up early in the morning to pray.

I ended up preaching about the vital importance we have of cultivating a private and personal prayer life, a prayer life that is between me and God, alone.

Preaching that sermon became a faithful reminder in the coming days. We writers can learn something from Jesus when it comes to building platforms.

Holy work is hidden work. Holy work is work God does in the dark. Look at any person of world-changing faith, and they lived a great chunk of their life in a hidden place, in a quiet season, or in a lonely desert. We aren’t any different. We still need the quiet of desert seasons in order to cultivate real depth.

You can’t short-circuit wisdom. Art is wisdom work. To do what Jesus did, we must learn the sacred rhythms between hiddenness and public life. Jesus constantly went back and forth from the quiet to the public. His power, however, came from being in the hidden place.

Don’t run to the public square in search of the affirmation of approval you really need to receive from being in a hidden place with God. There is most certainly a place for the approval and affirmation of the public square. Our lives as artists, as preachers, and teachers will constantly go back and forth from private to public. However, sometimes the only thing that will soothe our soul is silence and the presence of God. Wisdom recognizes that when you crave affirmation the most, you probably need to do what feels counterintuitive, and find it in the secret place of the Most High. Be wise.

The public will love you and hate you and forget you and then remember you. Sometimes all in one day. Get used to it. I write this, and I am a people-pleaser by nature. I want people to like me. I want them to praise me. I have a loud voice that I’ve used as a smoke screen most of my life because I was afraid if I was quiet, everyone would forget me. People pleasing, crowd seeking, clamoring for attention–it’s a black hole that will never, ever give you what you ache for. Soul affirmation, deep life-changing self-acceptance comes from listening to God’s voice of love and affirmation for you over a sustained length of time. Soul affirmation will not come from clamoring for the right to be heard in the public square.

Figure out what it is you want to say, what message God has given you in this season of your life, and give yourself permission to share it–on the page, behind the podium, or on Facebook or Twitter. Then, with all the creativity, grit, and downright gumption you can muster, find a hundred different ways to preach it or write it. Put yourself out there.

When you are discouraged and tired, overwhelmed or frustrated, which is bound to happen, retreat into the quiet place and fill up on the manna that comes from heaven.

Then, keep going.

Tina Osterhouse
Tina Osterhouse is passionate about living deeply and authentically. Through fiction, blog posts, and creative essays, she writes about ordinary life and the way God meets us in our everyday circumstances and creatively weaves the sacred into them. She studied ministry and theology at Northwest University, most recently lived on thirty acres in Southern Chile, and finally returned to the Seattle area in June of 2015.
Tina Osterhouse
Tina Osterhouse

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  1. Cath Conradie says:

    Hey Tina,

    I loved so much of what you wrote here, but what struck me the most was your ideas about the public and the private life. Jesus had the following of the masses, they crowded him, asked of him, praised him and then they cried “crucify him”. You are so right that we need to have our souls anchored to something more stable than public opinion. I am challenged to do more than try to please the public with my writing, but, as you said, to seek the Lord for the message He is calling me to share.

    Do you know the story of Ponchinello, by Max Lucado? All the little Wemmicks go around giving each other stars and dots, for good and bad things that they do. I really feel like that these days with all the social media buzzing around – likes, no likes, comments, no comments, – they’re the stars and dots causing the ebb and flow of my courage and confidence. Again, I see my need to be more anchored on what the Lord has called me to.

    Lots of food for thought. Thanks x

  2. Stephanie Thompson says:

    Tina, this piece is truth spoken eloquently. I am reminded of Jesus’ time away from the crowds. I always think of it as his time to get refueled and refocused. I love that you incorporate it into a rhythm. That specifies that it it must be a regular part of our relationship to God. “To do what Jesus did, we must learn the sacred rhythms between hiddenness and public life.” I’m going to meditate on that.

    • Hi Stephanie,

      Thanks for commenting! I do think it’s a rhythm we have to practice. I was feeling so drained over the last couple of weeks, and finally I turned off Twitter for a few days and pretended it wasn’t there. I needed the quiet. Of course, there are seasons of hiddenness that are long, years for some of us. I’ve had a couple long bouts of time in the “desert” and they shaped everything for the upcoming season.
      Love to you…

  3. Lisa Burns says:

    I love this for so many reasons, Tina. And, by your creativity, grit and gumption, you put a message out there that was exactly what I needed today. I’ve been in a desert place of my own writing for the past three years, as my heart journeys the death of my husband. But just last week, I had a truly sacred experience in a lowly, unmaintained labyrinth near my home that bore lessons that I yearn to share with others. Your piece today provided an extra-nudging from God to share. Thank you! And please, keep going! (And, by the way, I also live in the Seattle area, and hope that our paths cross one day!)

  4. Even in this age of high tech visiblity, Jesus’ example of balancing private and public guides us. So much to think about here, Tina. Thanks (I had one of those last minute fill-in sermons for my husband too. All grace.)

  5. SO well said! I loved all of this. #wisdom

  6. Thank you for this thoughtful and helpful post. The hidden, secret relationship we have with God is such a powerful concept. I think of Revelation 2:17, which refers to God giving us a white stone with a new name that only God knows, as a symbol of that relationship. It’s a secret conversation between us and God, but a conversation that affects everything. Your exhortation to not seek affirmation from the public square is spot on. Glad I saw this on Twitter

  7. As an introvert, I completely identify with this movement between public and private as a means of survival. However, in a culture that thrives on over-stimulation, I think all temperament types need to formulate healthy practices of retreat, times of pulling away from the noise in order to re-enter with perspective and godly wisdom.
    Tina, I always appreciate your words here. Thanks for this wisdom.

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