Seek the Shadows

May 25, 2020


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Sometimes you have to die to the dream God has given you so that God can resurrect the dream in its glorified form. And by glorified form, I simply mean pursuing the dream for God’s glory. When you stop living for selfish purposes, the pressure comes off. And that’s when your destiny comes into focus.

We try so hard to manufacture opportunities, but anything that is manufactured by human effort doesn’t come with God’s warranty. We try so hard to impress people, but our attempts to impress are utterly unimpressive, aren’t they? What’s really impressive is someone who isn’t trying to impress at all. Now, that’s impressive. Our attempts to manufacture opportunities or impress people are the by-products of an unsanctified ego that wants to glorify self rather than die to self. And until we experience that death to self, we’ll never come to life in the truest and fullest sense of the word.

During my driven years, I coveted speaking opportunities. I called the covetousness a calling, but I was the one trying to do everything within my power to manufacture those opportunities. I wanted to be on the stage. I wanted to be in the lights. But once again, I wanted it for the wrong reasons. And I had to allow Christ to crucify my covetousness over and over again. It wasn’t until God sanctified my motives, and I stopped seeking opportunities, that those opportunities started seeking me. I was recently speaking at a leadership conference, and I happened to be coupled with Louie Giglio for one of the sessions.

Louie is the founder of the Passion movement and pastor of Passion City Church in Atlanta. I got twelve minutes to speak. Louie got thirty minutes. In other words, we both got what we deserved. Louie is one of my favorite communicators, so I was excited about hearing him speak, but it is in a situation like this where your true motives are tested. If you’re playing the comparison game, the better others do, the worse you look, and the worse they do, the better you look. As I sat there at the conference with Louie, I had a flashback to when I was a younger pastor full of insecurities and immaturities. I had mixed reactions to guest speakers. I wanted them to do well. After all, I was giving them our pulpit to preach in. But if I’m being completely honest, I didn’t want them to do too well. Why? It might reflect poorly on me. And I don’t want to be in someone else’s shadow. I want the spotlight.

As Louie was speaking, I heard that still, small voice of the Spirit, and this is what I wrote in my conference notebook: “Seek the shadows.” Like sunflowers that face east to soak in the morning sunlight, we crave the praise of people. We want every ounce of credit we think we deserve. But you don’t get honor by seeking honor. You get honor by giving honor. Jesus said it this way: “Don’t sit in the seat of honor.” But His challenge to His original disciples to sit in the lowest seat didn’t keep them from asking the comparison question: “Who is the greatest among us?” We want to know where we rank, but Jesus never pulled rank. And He challenges us to follow in His footsteps and wash feet. And that is what seeking the shadows is all about. You aren’t looking for opportunities to get credit or get noticed.

You’re actually looking for opportunities to do things where you won’t get credit or won’t get noticed. That proves that you aren’t living for the applause of people. You’re living for the applause of nail-scarred hands.

Most of us wait to do something wrong until no one is watching, and we wait to do something right until someone is watching. That’s not human nature. That is our sin nature. It’s our unsanctified desire for self-glorification. This will seem counterintuitive, but you don’t really care about people until you don’t care what they think. Until you’ve been crucified to their opinions of you, you can’t really help them the way you should. You have to die to them. And while you’re at it, you might as well die to your agenda, your approval ratings, and your reputation. One of my deepest desires is to be a better person in private than I am in public. I’m not there yet, but that is the goal. I want those who know me best to respect me most. That is the essence of integrity. And that test is never taken in the light. It’s always taken in the shadows, just as David took it.

Mark Batterson

Mark Batterson

Mark Batterson serves as lead pastor of National Community Church in Washington, DC. NCC also owns and operates Ebenezers Coffeehouse, The Miracle Theatre, and the DC Dream Center. Mark holds a doctor of ministry degree from Regent University and is the New York Times bestselling author of 17 books, including The Circle Maker, Chase the Lion, and Whisper. Mark and his wife, Lora, have three children and live on Capitol Hill.


  1. Rusty Williams on May 25, 2020 at 10:31 am

    So Good. I just read this on the heels of reading Pat Lencioni’s latest book, “Motive”. You explain we’ll here Mark, but more importantly model. Thanks.

  2. Rob Murr on May 25, 2020 at 11:06 am

    Thanks Mark, for pulling back the veil of your heart and sharing from a place of transparency! Enjoy the season your in now!

  3. Babs on May 25, 2020 at 1:00 pm

    I am reading “Double blessings” now. It is a lot of food for thoughtm thank you Mark

  4. Melissa Pavesio on May 25, 2020 at 2:45 pm

    This spoke volumes to me today and I’m encouraged in realizing the progress I’ve made in this area of my walk.

  5. Derek on May 25, 2020 at 9:44 pm

    So timely, so true and so achingly hard to walk through. “The church is where dreams go to die” was a quote by Bonhoeffer I read on the jumbo screen at Passion 2020 while preparing to serve as a Door Holder for the first time. The Father has been leading me into this work of dying for some time. And yet as what I read resonated deeply and I felt compelled to shout in witness and comment , I was suddenly aware of the wispy thought and hope “Maybe Mark will read it and like it”. Sigh. Still more dying to do.

  6. Sandra Morgan on June 2, 2020 at 3:07 pm

    Mark, I appreciate your books so much! I just finished IF. I’m 74 and my “if only” is, if only I would have read IF 50 years ago. 🙂 I’m recommending it to all my younger friends. Your life verse could be Hebrews 10: 24 ESV And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works. Keep up the great work God is doing through you.

  7. Dana on June 3, 2020 at 6:47 am

    Thank you…I refrain from doing things, sharing thoughts or ideas because I’m afraid I might do or say something wrong and then “what will people think of me?”
    I like what you wrote “You don’t really care about people until you don’t care what they think.” I’m going to try that approach. I’m sure God had something to do with me reading this today.

  8. Peter Bennett on June 3, 2020 at 4:56 pm

    Well spoken, inspirational and with humility of one whom admits ones own short comings. Although easier said than done this should be the goal for us all.

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