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What's Your Secret?
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.
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Excellent! That is one of the big issues I had with the church growing up. It wasn't real to me....it was this portriat of perfection that's out of reach. There is healing and hope for both parties involved in sharing those secrets in a safe and loving environment.
"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."
I feel this statement points to the crucial piece in seeking truth and being fully known: community. I would argue that this journey can rarely be experienced alone, and that these confessions must be heard first by God, and then by one another- and not by everybody, but by those few trusted people who are willing to come alongside when you are going through the sometimes unattractive process of healing. I count having those people in my life among my greatest blessings.
Great piece. I hope it will spark deeper layers of honesty in families, marriages and friendships.
So glad my daughter posted this - honest, insightful and true to the core.
This post has steered me to move...not sure I am willing to let go of my secret but things like this along the way show me...at some point God might call me to just that.
We have had a little tradition in out home of telling "bad stories", stories of failure, to our kids. Your comment about adults needing to share journeys of failures as well as successes makes me think we ought to keep it up and go deeper.
Great article Rebekah! I think a key point in your story is the fact that you have created a consistant, safe space with your son for confession. If we all find time for daily self-reflection and confession, which is received with love and grace, perhaps the seeds of sin wouldn't grow into the deep, dark secrets? Oh to honest living!
My one word for 2011 was "Known." All year I have tried to keep in the forefront of my mind what I am and want to be known for. The last line of your post really spoke to me, "Sometimes we forget that we are loved to the level that we are known. Let us be known."
My conclusion from this focus on "Known" in 2011 was that the point of my life really is to point to Jesus. How am I doing that today?--the question I wrestle every morning.
Great article Rebekah, it is great to be able to share our "secrets/hurts" with someone we know we can trust, it is hard in the day we live to have such a person, our children should always "feel" that safe haven of trust in us as parents, they should "feel safe" to tell us anything when ever they feel the need. If they don't tell us as parents they will tell someone else. Our children should see that we are not perfect but strive to be more like Jesus everyday and that takes an entire lifetime sometime. I am glad that the Lord accepts us "as we are" and still loves us "as we are".
I think Rebekah did a phenomenal job hitting the nail on the head. We all have secrets and its painful keeping those secrets for however long we choose to hang on to them. I've done a couple of interviews on my podcast where we discuss how Christians want to keep their sins secrets, as well as no one has current struggles, they only have issues they "use" to struggle with a long time ago.
I work at a major Christian University in the mid-west, and specifically I work with college students and leadership. One truth I try to get across to the students is that "if you don't have any secrets, then no one can have power over you." I tell them this because life is easier when you are transparent about your shortcomings and failures, and when everyone knows your secrets then there is no one person who can have power over you.
I did an interview with Aaron Stern (Pastor of the Mill, a college and career age group of 1,000 at New Life Church in Colorado Springs, CO), author of "What's Your Secret: Freedom Through Confession." If you'd like to listen to us discuss his book, you can follow this link here
WOW! Just what I needed today! Secrets do seem to have power over us, they grow into something worse than they really are. Satan uses that to keep us in bondage. And yet at times they are hard to share for fear of how we will be seen, but in reality, none of us are perfect. We all have our flaws, perfectionism is unrealistic and keeps us from showing our true identities and drawing others to a loving, forgiving Savior. Thank you.
I am so glad this subject has been addressed. There have been times when being honest has brought a judgement or two but for the most part it keeps me on the humble side and gives others the freedom to share their struggles as well. Thank the Lord I am not in bondage to my past or present sin and that in Christ there is forgiveness for all of it. May we all grant the same forgiveness that we have received...
I enjoyed this post. After years of inner healing, I started to live by the saying - the devil is in the dark and that is where he thrives and God is in the light. As a Catholic, I have always felt confession is a gift of my faith because it gives me the opportunity to acknowledge my sin and recognize my need for Jesus and his mercy.
Thank you. The last line was a perfect summation of all that was said.
Wow, the statement "its your secrets that keep you sick" are embodied in this piece. I once started the story of my life which was the secret I kept all my life about sexual abuse. My mother passed away and my dad is going to be 86. Just never thought it was a good thing to tell them after so many years. Then I began to tell a couple of friends. Healing began but in the painful aftermath Ive made choices that are just as deeply painful and do seem to hold me hostage. Thanks for a reminder today that these must be talked about to someone trustworthy. My thought at the end is my fear of trusting someone which I also believe comes from not sharing secrets. You then begin to think of others as closed and judgmental and ultimately decide the secret is better left untold. Or perhaps you find yourself telling God over and over how shameful you feel but never arrive at the place of feeling released from the shame because it is still in many ways shrouded in darkness.
I must say that the greatest joy I receive from taking a risk with writing is reading how of each of you take that same risk in your response. Thank you so much for your words.
The thread that keeps resonating in what I'm reading is..."you are not alone." You are not alone in your pain, or your secrets or your grief.
The most precious gift we can have in addition to a God that heals and restores is our community. Those who are brave with us. That call us out. That say no matter what, we will stand by you. Only then will we find courage to let that secret sneak out. I pray we can be that person for others as our loving Father has so graciously been that for us.
This article reminds me that sharing our secret, frees other to share theirs. Many years ago i was set free by one simple statement......"we are all a mess" and if we weren't we wouldn't need a God that heals restores and redeems. Thank you Rebekah for your insight and courage.
Love-love this post and the resulting discussion. I come from a family of secret keepers. Like Robin, I have put the story of many of those secrets on paper, in hopes of sharing them one day. But the enemy distracts and tells me how very messy things will be if I shine a light on yesterday. It's a hard thing, moving beyond that point but I desire that others would experience the freedom of both the secret revealed and the (hopefully) subsequent forgiveness--your own or someone else's.
Thanks for your beautiful way with words and your story telling ability. You are very compelling.
My father had to die before I felt able or perhaps safe enough to start talking and healing. (It is particularly complicated in cases of abuse of any kind.) Secrets cannot always be shared. But if you don't tell someone you'll eventually combust.
I have seen in the years since, as I write on my blog and talk to others about "my secrets" which are really simply the challenges of being human, that others begin to heal. They open up just a bit and God begins to work. It's quite miraculous. And I have been healed too by telling my story.
This is an excellent post, so much truth, and so much work to be done on behalf of the "hidder" namely: me.
You have given me much to think on.
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