Secrets. We all have them, don’t we?
Tucking my son in at bedtime has become quite the confessional. It all started when he remembered taking a pen a year earlier from his teacher’s desk in hopes of surprising his sister later on the bus. Then, as if the dam had broken, a few nights later he remembered “picking up” a box of crayons and putting them in his backpack. I wondered if my usually buttoned up son was on his way to a life of kleptomania.
Another misdemeanor for a second grader but significant, nonetheless. More importantly, the beauty of these precious talks was his heart of brokenness. He confessed through tears that “it feels good to get the junk out.” What came next was most unexpected.
“Mom, have you ever stolen anything?” “Hmmm…actually, yes. When I was younger, I’m sure I snuck a couple things. But I can’t really remember details.”
Then, I confessed that even as a frugal adult—the type that double-checks every receipt to be sure I wasn’t get double-charged—I’d sometimes notice I was undercharged for things but never go back and pay the difference. I felt such shame in that moment. I had never confessed that out loud before. What does that say for me? That I have a heart full of deceit? As tears streamed down my cheek he hugged me saying, “It’s okay mom, we all sin.” My eight year old showered me with grace.
This instigated a discovery in the days that followed. I quickly realized, that most secrets don’t come out this easily.
There are secrets we become slaves to that affect the trajectory of our lives. Deep, painful secrets that we keep for self-preservation or for the protection of others while we endure the painful aftermath. Some reside so deeply that they are blocked from our memory. Others so painful that when triggered, we run the opposite direction. The shame buries us. The guilt leaves us paralyzed.
Do we really believe the truth will set us free?
We often don’t. So, we binge and we purge. We have an unplanned pregnancy. We abort. We are sexually abused. We abuse others. We aren’t attracted to our spouse so we fantasize or have an affair. We drink too much. We flirt too much. We yell at our kids, or stay out late enough to avoid the interaction all together. We covet the lifestyle of others or flaunt our wealth with arrogance. We gossip to make us feel better about ourselves. We keep our friends close, and our enemies even closer.
We become slaves to our secrets.
The thing is, Satan DWELLS in the secret, in the haunting, hidden brokenness. The longer we keep that secret, the more power he has to speak lies into our own identity. We have a crisis of faith; we don’t truly believe that God will hear and lavish us with his love upon our confession. We don’t REALLY believe that we will be made new. So we keep it and hide it and cover it and die from it.
A friend told me recently that she kept her secret of infidelity from her husband for 3 years. Another woman told me recently, she held her secret for 5 years. Another discovered her husband’s secret after 10 years. And yet, another after 18. Overtime, life becomes more about keeping the secret than saving the soul.
The secret often wins.
Perhaps a new day is dawning. Perhaps walls are coming down. Tears are streaming and confessions are starting to pour out like hope reborn. Do you know the main catalyst for this revolution of the heart?
You guessed it. Someone shared their secret.
Someone gave voice to their secret and in doing so, gave permission for another person to share theirs. Naming the one thing that held them captive for years rendered the secret powerless. All at once, the church at large is beginning to echo the chorus of confession. We all begin to bear witness to the bondage that is breaking by secret-sharing. The naming is bringing healing, and healing is bringing freedom. A freedom many of us are experiencing for the very first time. This secret-telling is what’s actually saving us. And this new normal is exactly what will keep us in the light.
But we ought to have another motivation for telling our secret. In Let Your Life Speak, Parker Palmer reminds us:
“Many young people today journey in the dark, as the young always have, and we elders do them a disservice when we withhold the shadowy parts of our lives. When I was young, there were very few elders willing to talk about the darkness; most of them pretended that success was all they had ever known. As the darkness began to descend on me in my early twenties, I thought I had developed a unique and terminal case of failure. I did not realize that I had merely embarked on a journey toward joining the human race.”
Did the generation before us share their secrets? Did you grow up in the midst of secret tellers? Of truth tellers? Of confession bearers? We, as a human race, are simply that—human. And our humanity yields brokenness to the core. The sooner we recognize our profound shadows and shout them from the rooftops, the sooner we find kindred spirits of deliverance and rescue.
Its been said, “If you don’t expose your secret, your secret will expose you.”
Will you be a secret teller for the next generation? Will you show your own humanity for those that are looking up to you? If you did, I’m quite sure the person you are telling would love you more and show you the same grace my son showed me.
Sometimes we forget that we are loved to the level that we are known. Let us be known.