Nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. Therefore whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered behind closed doors will be proclaimed from the housetops. Luke 12:2-3
God has gifted me strangely. I have the gift of transparency.
I am wildly screwed up and sinful…
and I talk about it.
In tandem with that, people trust me with their stories, their secrets. I believe God gave me the gift of having people open up to me.
I know that’s an odd gift. I’ve had strangers tell me their life stories in parking lots so often that my kids now expect it. A man working in the Lincoln Museum as an actor, doing a dramatization, somehow stopped in the middle of his presentation and started describing his family and employment situation to me. I joke about having some code written on my forehead that tells people I’m safe. I can’t see it in the mirror. I’m the boy who listened.
Humor aside, I consider this an honor and a sacred privilege. At times, I feel overwhelmed by it. I don’t always appreciate it in the moment. But I know we all need to be heard and encouraged. I’m grateful that I can give these to people, including strangers.
Self-deception kills us. So does keeping our darkness hidden. Having these gifts compels me to tell you, “Do not hide your darkness.”
When I talk with people about this, sometimes they look at me like I’m crazy. Of course we keep our darkness hidden. Yes, we disguise or cover up our weaknesses. That’s a given.
Two days ago, I heard from a friend that their high school principal had an affair with their social studies teacher. These two wrecked both their marriages, scarred their children, sent horrible shockwaves through the school, they both lost their jobs, the husband of the teacher, a pastor, lost his job (they told him he needed to work on his marriage), and of course it damaged the church he was pastoring. I heard about this because my friend’s four boys go to that school. Both the principal and teacher had become significant influences in these guys’ lives. They are four of literally hundreds of people hurt in the fallout.
We pretend that we have it together while we trainwreck our lives.
God still loves them. Us. God still calls us to repentance. God still offers grace at every moment. But if we’re blind to our own darkness, we see no need to repent. If we insist on denial or deception, we cut off the path to repentance.
I’m not saying something new here, but I’m going to say it with the voice God gave me, because I think many desperately need to hear it. I’m praying that some can.
I’ve never cheated on my wife, though I’d be the last to say I haven’t experienced temptation. Could that happen to me? Of course it could. Could that happen to you? Adjusting the question to the equivalent self-inflicted wound in your own circumstances (e.g. you may not be married or in a position of leadership), could you make that mistake?
How do you respond when you hear what they did? I know it’s become a common story. But do you think “How could they?” or “There, but for the grace of God, go I?” Do you judge them and categorize them, two more Christians who aren’t doing this as well as we are?
It becomes increasingly clear to me as I get older that we want to hide our weaknesses and struggles not only from others, but from ourselves. We have this strange love-hate relationship with hearing about others’ sins and failures. Don’t believe me? Why are the celebrity gossip magazines and shows so popular? When leaders among Jesus followers crash and burn, do we share that news—and seek to hear that news—because we want to pray for them? I know what’s what we saywe want, but does intercession truly motivate us, or is it something else?
As for the love-hate, I believe it’s this: we are reassured when others fall, because we have an uncomfortable suspicion that we, too, carry brokenness in us and their self-destruction gives us opportunity to say, “Okay, not that bad, anyway.” Yet we hate, and I do mean despise, the evil or darkness in others that mirrors what we have in us, much of which we hide from ourselves. When I truly can’t stand someone, I have learned to ask, “Okay, what do I loathe in myself that I’m seeing in you?” I don’t actually ask them out loud, it’s more a conversation between God and me. Jesus almost always shows me. Funny how I can’t always get direct answers to my prayers, but when I ask “Why does this jerk bug me?” God will notbe silent. It’s almost like Jesus was waiting for me to ask that question…or even…prompting me.
I’m going to keep this short and direct. I’ll ask you one question for Lent.
Some of us fast from certain things, “give them up for Lent,” be it chocolate or alcohol, chewing gum or gossip. I like this discipline because focusing on being closer to God in a specific way helps me and because there is power in joining much of the Body of Christ in this act of repentance (even if we’re giving up something objectively good, we’re doing so acknowledging that we have let our love/desire for it pull us away from God).
If, for Lent, God asked you to give up hiding, what would come into the light?