Holy Spirit Story: Hidden (with Shelley Johnson)

Acts 1:8 (NIV)

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”


Today’s Holy Spirit Story comes from another long-time friend, Shelley Johnson. She is many things and much could be said of the way Jesus witnesses in and through her life. The word that comes to mind is faithful. She has served up front and behind the scenes and everywhere in between. She hosts something of a “tea party” on her Instagram channel: @shelleylinnjohnson. Her story today is captured with the word hidden. I love how the story unfolded at last year’s New Room Conference. Below is the story in Shelley’s own words and, if you listen, you will hear it in her own voice. 

I’m what’s known as a helper. I love to be useful and to make a difference. But. A battle rages in me. Part of me likes working behind the scenes doing the tasks that are necessary but unnoticed while the other part of me is drawn into leadership and the limelight.

In the years I served on staff at my local church, I especially felt pride’s pull, probably because I had more opportunities to be in the spotlight. As a result, I actively sought out rhythms of accountability and humility—all with the desire to serve wholeheartedly for the Lord and not for my own “selfish ambition” (Phil. 2:3).

My story took a sharp turn south when my husband and I moved for his job. Nearly overnight, life changed. No more ministry responsibilities. No more coffee urns to rinse out or team meetings to lead. No more guests to greet or Sunday sermons to preach. Day after day, my role shifted into the singular—sitting by myself, reading the Word, learning how to write.

In my new solitary state, those deeply rooted, restless desires to be useful screamed at me. I saw no fruit. I had no feedback. And I started dreaming of what it would look like for my writing to gain attention—to my shame. My confidence tanked because life didn’t look the way I expected it to. And all the time I spent “working on me” started feeling a bit too self-focused.

That is until I opened a study on Elijah. As if reading with new eyes, I saw Elijah’s story contained solitary bookends. The ending, where Elijah fled and hid from mad Queen Jezebel, was familiar to me. But, it was the way his story began that grabbed me: “Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah: ‘Leave here, turn eastward and hide in the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan. You will drink from the brook, and I have directed the ravens to supply you with food there’” (1 Kings 17:2–4).

Elijah was in no imminent danger, yet God called him to hide—physically, yes, but also mentally, spiritually, and emotionally. Because God had plans and purposes for Elijah, he pulled him away, to be alone. For a season of preparation, God hid him.

Elijah’s story gripped my soul with such power that I sobbed. I’d been given perspective.

About a year later, I made my annual trek to the New Room Conference—more excited, and more expectant than ever before. I held an anticipation of the Holy Spirit doing something big.

I walked into the Thursday night session with a giddiness that flowed as though I knew a secret. And it was a great experience, just not the “big” I’d hoped for. Working hard not to be distracted by the threat of disappointment, I focused more and prayed a lot.

Then it came. A whisper so soft I wondered if I’d really heard.


That was it. No lightning bolts. No hallelujah chorus. Just a simple word that, at the time, didn’t ignite much within me. Except for surprise and confusion. But I received it. I entered the same sanctuary the next morning a little more subdued as I continued to ponder what I’d heard.

We didn’t get very far into the first session when the Spirit whipped up a BIG. Oh my goodness, there are no adequate words to describe the beautiful, chaotic, powerful transformation that took place in that room. In the middle of the speaker’s talk, hundreds of people spontaneously started flooding to the front altar for prayer.

Instead of marching onward with her talk, the speaker began laying hands on those who knelt and cried out. My heart pounded—this was it! This was what my heart had been hoping for! As I was taking in the wonder of it all, I almost missed it. A voice from the stage called out: “Maybe you need to be hidden so that God can be seen.”

Full stop.

Only I didn’t stop. I didn’t hesitate. Everything in me knew this was the Lord, and I fled to the altar, crashing to my knees where I wept and worshiped, received and released—for a long time. I relished the power and peace of the holy presence of the Lord.

Since that moment of explosive entangling of his Spirit and mine, God has continued working. He’s been showing me what it looks like to be fruitful in this set-apart season. And, I’ve been learning the ways of the Holy Spirit as I lean into this hidden life, becoming more and more receptive to the Spirit as my Helper.


Father, thank you for this powerful story of how the Holy Spirit calls us to hiddenness in you and then reveals Jesus in and through us to others. Thank you for Shelley and the way you have spoken to her and now through her. Thank you for the New Room Conference, which has become a powerful meeting with you, Lord. Lead us to the altar of hiddenness and all the glory you want to reveal there. Praying in Jesus’s name, amen. 


What do you make of this whole notion and idea of being “hidden”? Does it challenge you? Seem counterintuitive? How do you square it with the idea of “let your light shine”? 


Today we will sing our Saturday song: “Sanctuary.” We will sing it through twice. 

For the Awakening,
J. D. Walt

P.S. Why I want you to come to the New Room Conference this year + an Easter Egg. 

I really do. I want you to come to the New Room Conference. It’s in The Woodlands, Texas, again this year. Stories like shared today happen in spades– all over the place.  You can learn more and register here. And when you register, use the special Wake-Up Call promo code: WUC-NRC to secure your ticket for $269!

Now for the Easter Egg: Shelley’s story reminded me of a song I wrote more than twenty years ago (along with Tim Putnam) called “Hidden.” Ironically, that’s where the song has been for all these years—hidden—until last year when my friend Mark Swayze and Bristol House enhanced and recorded the song on their latest record. I think you will like it. You can listen to it via a lyric video on Youtube and/or listen on Spotify here

P.P.S.  Holy Spirit Stories Welcome

I would love it if you would send a story of faith from your life we might use on a Saturday in the future. We will be glad to attach your name or a pseudonym or anonymity—it’s up to you. It can be a story of coming to faith, a story of transformation, a story of healing, deliverance, suffering and sufficient grace, family reconciliation, prodigal returns, answered prayer, and so forth. A word count of 500–800 words works well. We can’t guarantee publication, but we assure you of our prayerful discernment. You can reply to this email with your story and it will come to me.

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WHAT IS THIS? Wake-Up Call is a daily encouragement to shake off the slumber of our busy lives and turn our eyes toward Jesus. Each morning our community gathers around a Scripture, a reflection, a prayer, and a few short questions, inviting us to reorient our lives around the love of Jesus that transforms our hearts, homes, churches, and cities.

Comments and Discussion

One Response

  1. Once I heard a preacher say, “I want to hide behind the Cross so that people see Jesus, not me.” John the Baptist put it this way, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” The old hymn, Rock of Ages, says, “Let me hide myself in Thee (Jesus).”

    As a new Christ-follower during the Jesus Revolution a burning love for the risen Jesus was birthed within me and He became as real to me as my physical environment. More than anything I wanted to help others to experience the living Jesus in the same way. When I would pray for God to use me to make people aware of His glorious presence and reality on earth, a frightening prayer would come flowing out of me, “Lord, do whatever you need to do to me to be able to do what you want to do through me.”

    After praying those words, I would be in shocked and stunned silence, in unbelief that I prayed such a thing. Then these words would silently sound within me, “Do you want to take that prayer back?” I would be very tempted to modify what I had prayed, but after an inward struggle I would say, “No, Lord. Have your way with me.”

    Like all humans, I’ve had difficult times. Mine have been primarily emotional. Delay, disappointment, and rejection have crushed and tormented my heart too many times to count, as I’ve seen my hopes and dreams demolished (sometimes right when it looked like they were about to manifest). Against my will, I’ve been thrust into hiding. It recently happened again, and I have nowhere to turn but to the living, resurrected Jesus.

    My inner devastation constantly drives me to Christ in me. He gives me hope that He is preparing me so that His light can shine so brightly in me that people will be able to behold the Lamb of God with such clarity that they are miraculously set free to continually adore, follow, and obey Jesus for the rest of their life.

    “No turning back. No turning back.” I once wrote this poem:

    Watching your “old man” die,
    Makes you want to cry.
    Seeing all your hopes and dreams
    Take their wings and fly.
    I know that “old man.”
    His name is “myself,”
    But I can’t help him now
    He belongs to someone else.
    Jesus, I gave myself to you
    Go ahead and do
    Whatever you want to
    To me.

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