Secrets Revealed!

Secrets can kill.  
It’s a pretty dramatic statement, isn’t it?  I’ve seen it happen, firsthand.  And it’s not a pretty sight, let me tell you.   

For one thing, they are relationship killers.  Now, I’m not talking about the I-bought-you-the-coolest-birthday-present kind of secret.  More like the, there’s-something-you-should-know-but-I’m-not-ready-to-tell-you kind of secret.   

The family I grew up in used to have a pet that we all hated and yet kept around.  I’m not too sure why we would keep a pet that destroyed our happiness, but we did.  He lived in the very center of our home, ate up any scraps of peace or joy, and ended up killing my parents’ marriage and then took both of their very lives.  
It was the proverbial elephant in the room that killed our family.  My parents acquired her, fed her well, and made a bed for her in the center of our house.  She took priority over everyone else.   And when she stood in the living room, we couldn’t even see each other around her.  She was enormous and representative of all the secrets our family kept.
As a matter of fact, I’m thinkin’ that elephant had babies.  The longer she lived with us, the more babies she had until we couldn’t even keep up with all those secrets and the poo they left behind.  

But, let me tell you some good news I learned from my garden.  
The most beautiful life can come from manure if it gets used well.  

Secondly, secrets kill individuals.   I am not being dramatic this time.  It is literal.  It starts with the littlest things that folks feel like they need to cover up.  The thing they wish they’d never done that changes the fabric of who they are.  The feelings they have that they keep to themselves.  The things that build walls between married folks, parents and children, siblings, and friends.   Those secrets are best friends with jealousy and bitterness, and  let me tell you, those suckers can eat!  The feed costs so very much, and ultimately kills all life around it.
Do you see, as I do, that holding in secrets and bitterness can affect a person all the way through to their physical health? If laughter is the best medicine than how much does negativity do the opposite?

Secrets are isolating and we were not meant to be alone.

We used to work with the youth at our church.  Beautiful people with brilliant futures who brightened our world. All of them were weighed down by secrets, like backpacks full of weights beyond their capability to carry.  Either their own that they were trying to cope with and didn’t know with whom they could trust, or those their parents were silently demanding that they keep.  
Some parents knew their kids were living on the edge, yet sacrificed their child’s need to relate on the altar of image.  By this, I mean, those parents were too scared to tell their own truths in an effort to relate, and in keeping those secrets their kids felt alone in the world.  
Some parents forgot their children were people at all, and those are the saddest stories.

A secret is like a brick.  One builds on another until someday there is no way around a giant wall.  

Camouflage is a game we all like to play, but our secrets are as surely revealed by what we want to seem to be as by what we want to conceal.
Russell Lynes

I don’t know why I was supposed to write about secrets today.  Honestly, I have felt God prompting me to write about it for about a week, and I dragged my feet because it seemed so out-of-the-blue.  
But, hopefully, someone reading can relate.  Maybe you’re exhausted with trying to feed that elephant-in-residence.  Maybe keeping up with the poo-shoveling is wearing you out.  Where to begin, you ask?

Well, how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

I am increasingly surprised to hear about families that coexist more than enjoy each other.  A group of people that face outward rather than focusing inward, on each other.  Families that have forgotten that laughing and eating and playing frisbee together set a foundation for the big stuff–the big conversations that happen when trust is a given.   When my heart is out in the open, it makes it safe for your heart to be there, too.  Nothing is hidden or kept in the dark (’cause everything is scarier in the dark, isn’t it?).   

If there is something between you and a friend, establish trust by being honest. Honesty, drenched in love, is the very best recipe.  Communication from the heart beginning with vulnerability builds a lovely foundation.

If the secret is something between you and your God–something you need to face up to and deal with once and for all, trust that under the shadow of the cross you will always find open arms.

And then the elephant is vanquished and love is victorious.

No one lights a lamp and then covers it with a washtub or shoves it under the bed. No, you set it up on a lamp stand so those who enter the room can see their way. We’re not keeping secrets; we’re telling them. We’re not hiding things; we’re bringing everything out into the open.
Luke 8:16,17

Baby, it’s cold!

Winter began its journey to my neighborhood today.

I’m not a fan.

As I type, the frigid wind is howling outside my window. The temperature has dropped twenty degrees in just a few hours. Snow is predicted. Thousands of folks are without power tonight. We, Michiganders, are bracing ourselves for what is predicted to be one heck of an onslaught–for the next, oh, five ridiculous months or so.

Really, when it’s January here, and we have carved our car out of some ridiculous ice-encrusted snowbank to drive through winds that blow the blinding snow into such a frenzy that we cannot see our hand in front of our face let alone use that hand to attempt to wipe the snot-cicle dangling from our nose so that we can fetch some variety of food that doesn’t need to be cooked in case the ice has frozen the power lines–AGAIN–while we huddle together in the house with mittens and hats and oh-so-sexy thermal underwear under layers of blankets and ten pairs of socks…

…all we’ve really got is that high-five to the other surviving Michigander, and the ability to brag to each other about how gosh-darn hearty Michiganders are.

I’m so excited.
(Insert sarcasm here.)

I wanna be a baby snowbird, and fly away to warmer climes where vitamin D is given in a daily dose of sunshine, and people high five each other for outsmarting the system and escaping the ridiculous north. The place where you chuckle at the old guys in their stocking caps and scarves when the temp dips to a nippy 55 degrees.

I find myself feeling that way, too, lately when it comes to the kind of emotional struggle that whips my metaphorical hair back and forth (sorry for the badly used song lyric, but it makes sense as I write.) I sometimes just wanna run away–as if it’s really possible to escape.

I was reading a fictional–yet accurate enough to also be somewhat nonfictional–account of the life of John Bunyan. No relation to the big guy with the ax and a big blue ox. Rather, the one who wrote Pilgrim’s Progress. Fascinating story. One of those books that taught me more in story form than all of my years of history put together.
It also appealed to my sense of anti-establishment…ism (pretty sure that’s a new word), as it dealt with the religion of the day and its polluted grasp on lives.
Before you hate, please read some of my other posts regarding the difference between religion and faith. Faith is what makes my heart beat. Religion isn’t even for the birds.

Anyway, the woman in this story was wondering how so many things could go wrong in her life when she had dedicated herself fully to serving and living the very best life for God that she knew how. She kept claiming the verse about all things working together for good for her, yet stuff happened. The winds kept blowing her nice orderly world around like they probably are my garbage can at this very moment.
She was challenged by a friend who asked her if the only blessings in her life were the good things. Wait. What? Like, let’s consider for one second that the bad things that have happened to us could be–BLESSINGS?
Well, this is how she explained it. She said, “Hardships are the Lord’s greatest blessing to the believer. Without them we would love the Lord only for what He does for us. Our troubles teach us to love Him for Who He is.”*

That’s it–in a hard-to-look-at-nutshell. Troubles either turn us into blamers looking every which way to blame, and become bitter, and excuse bad behavior; or they bring us to our knees where we seek out our only true source of love.
Take our kids for instance. No matter how old or young they may be, if they get caught with their hand in the proverbial cookie jar, what’s the first response? Blame. Excuses. Hiding from the ensuing trouble.
What if, instead of those options, our difficult, mouthy, teenager with every answer fell weeping and genuinely remorseful at our feet and pleaded with us to hold them and make it all better? Wouldn’t we melt? Isn’t that where they should be? Safe with the one who loves them unconditionally, and has the power to comfort and help heal their broken heart?

When my world got rocked, I fell down. And the only face I saw was the only One Who could hold me close enough to heal my heart. He’s not some
“man upstairs” waiting to hand out consequences to His badly behaved children. He’s not a genie in a bottle passing out blessings to the best little brown-nosers in the class.

He is the love of our lives–waiting for us to catch on to that.

That’s what I learned. I wouldn’t trade that for anything. No one, ever, in this whole wide world can take that from me. That love is right there waiting on the other side of all the blame and excuses.

It’s like finding a tropical paradise, complete with a lazy river, in the middle of your living room on January 15th in Michigan. Priceless.

So, what do you think? With God on our side like this, how can we lose? If God didn’t hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn’t gladly and freely do for us? And who would dare tangle with God by messing with one of God’s chosen? Who would dare even to point a finger? The One who died for us—who was raised to life for us!—is in the presence of God at this very moment sticking up for us. Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture…
…None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.
Romans 8:31-40

Excerpt from The Preacher’s Wife by Jody Hedlund
– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad