Several years ago a man came back into my office. He said he was mad at me when he left the previous week. Why's that I inquired. That one time you said 'what difference does the bible make' really ticked me off. I could see him wondering what I was doing counseling at a church. Oh that I said.
I told him that it seemed to me that he didn't really give much thought to what the scripture said over the last ten years so why when his wife is moving out does he all of a sudden care about what it says about divorce so much.
Amazingly he came back the next week. We eventually traveled through his story with him sharing secrets from his life. I was honored by his trust. I was excited for him as he grieved his losses and traveled through his shame to receive God's love and acceptance. Sadly, his marriage didn't survive. His ex will miss out on the man she wanted to be with although she did endure and hope for a long time in the toxic atmosphere of his anger.
What do secrets do to us? Larry Crabb in the chapter On Brothers: Men who Share Secrets from Silence of Adam says that maintaining secrets has three major effects on men (of course they negatively affect women too though somewhat differently):
1. They weaken courage
2. They isolate their keepers from community
3. They erode a legitimate sense of personal confidence
Therefore, men with secrets are unable to:
1. Look deeply into mystery, to honestly face the unresolvable confusion of life
2. Remember the character and deeds of God, to see the unseen story of God revealed in Scripture and in the events of our lives
3. Move into the chaos of life, with the power to restore order and release beauty.
Effect 1: Secrets weaken courage, making it less likely that men will look deeply into mystery. Men who keep secrets are terrified at the prospect of exposure. But something else terrifies them more. The lesser fear--exposure of something they know but no one else knows--sometimes protects them from having to face the greater fear...Keeping secrets is cowardly. It helps us to stay away from the far more significant challenge that faces every man, which is to stare into the darkness of a life that makes no sense and, in that darkness, to move with joy. Men who keep secrets never find the courage to look at the mystery of life.
Effect 2: Secrets encourage isolation, making it difficult to see the hand of God in community, and therefore giving men less to remember (Crabb talked earlier about a word for man in the old testament, Zachar-the remembering one--Ben's comment) Isolation is perhaps the most obvious effect of keeping secrets...Grace makes it possible to stand unashamed in the presence of God. It restores the dream of belonging where one most wishes to belong. But men who keep secrets never realize that opportunity. Whatever their external posture might be, their inner man is always looking down, away from the possibility of contact with anyone's eyes, especially God's...Men with secrets do not remember God the way he wants to be remembered.
Effect 3: Secrets erode confidence, robbing men of the joyful anticipation of moving with power to restore order and to release beauty in the community around them. This third effect of keeping secrets makes it difficult for men to even imagine themselves moving powerfully into another person's life...Secret keepers hear a false message, which they sometimes think is coming from the Spirit: "You're still a mess. You should be much farther along by now. I'm just about disgusted enough to give up on you. The only evidence of creativity in your life is your ability to figure out new ways to fail." Men with secrets do not move into the mystery of relationships. They see no point in it. It would only lead to failure.
Sharing Secrets With a Brother
When a man takes another man into his confidence (share it with your wife too if you want hope of a truly intimate marriage--Ben's comment), when two men walk together and agree that only unconfessed sin and tightly held secrets can put us beyond the reach of sanctifying grace, three life-giving messages are heard.
1. "Nothing you are or have ever done dooms you to defeat. God's arm is long enough to reach into the deepest black hole, and strong enough to lift you out."
2. "You have something powerful to give. Your secrets do not define you. Beneath your worst failure and deepest wound lies a man, a bearer of God's image, who can know God and reveal him only in community. With hope and joy you can look into the face of God."
3. "There is a calling on your life that no secret can remove. God has made the mystifying choice to work through redeemed failures. And we continue to fail; but we are men with an appetite for God, an appetite that keeps us moving into the mystery, where he can be most fully revealed."
My friend who shared his secret found that the bible really does matter. God will not leave nor forsake us though the pain in healing can be intense.
For Ann and I getting our secrets on the table was an essential ingredient in being able to restore our relationship. It was chaotic but we found that God was bigger than the chaos. Come clean ladies and gentlemen. Come clean. It's scary but you will be amazed what God does shining his light on your darkness.