I have secrets. You do, too… And Robin Williams, the great comic actor who committed suicide just months after a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease, had his secrets. Laughing on the outside, dying on the inside. His daughter Zelda, scrambling to understand her father’s “permanent solution to a temporary problem,” wondered aloud to the media why the love so many had offered him couldn’t rescue him. She couldn’t conceive of her dad’s desperate plight, because he kept the sources of his pain secret.
We are a society built on secrets. The other day I told my wife I was angry with her because she woke from a sound sleep to let our dog out when I was already up and could’ve done that myself. The real reason I was angry—the secret I was hiding but didn’t know it—was that I gain a sense of identity when I come through for her, and she’d taken that away from me. It’s hard to write these words—and probably confusing for you to read them—but it’s true. We keep things secret because our whole world is built on a shaky foundation, and we’re just trying to hold it together.
If we, like Jim Carrey in The Truman Show, were surrounded by hidden cameras that captured every aspect of our daily life—the secret and the public—how would that alter the way people see us? Life for so many is about our carefully crafted personas; we drain our energy campaigning to prop up the identity we must have to survive. And when we capitulate on that identity—when we either choose to or are forced to give others a glimpse of our soul’s reality—we are standing on a terrible precipice.
It’s the same precipice Jesus stood on when He was tempted by the Devil in the wilderness: “Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory; and he said to Him, ‘All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Go, Satan! For it is written, “You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.”’ Then the devil left Him; and behold, angels came and began to minister to Him” (Matthew 4:8-11). What happens here is not merely a proposed business transaction. No, it is Satan playing poker with Jesus—challenging the investment He has in His identity with an offer “too good to refuse.” But Jesus has an ace in the hole, and it is this: “I will not speak much more with you, for the ruler of the world is coming, and he has nothing in Me…” (John 14:30). Because Jesus has no secrets that he is not willing to reveal, and because there is nothing hidden in Him, the enemy of God has no leverage—“he has nothing in Me.” Secrets are a necessary prerequisite for the leveraging schemes of the evil one. No secrets means no leverage. That’s just how things work…
I once asked my pastor and friend Tom Melton if he’s ever cautious or anxious when he’s vigorously undermining the “schemes of the devil.” In that moment he cemented my respect, because he said this: “I’m not afraid of him—what can he do to me?” That wasn’t hubris talking—that was a man broken-and-redeemed talking. When your secrets have been outed, and when your façade identity has been jackhammered, the leverage your enemy has been using to destroy you is gone. And we have a choice in our moments and seasons of humiliating clarity—we can begin our feverish rebuilding campaign for a new propped-up identity, or we can give ourselves to Jesus more vulnerably, more completely, and more intimately and unreservedly than we ever have before.
Jesus says: “For nothing is hidden, except to be revealed; nor has anything been secret, but that it would come to light.” (Mark 4:22). This isn’t a threat—it’s simply a description of what life is like in the Kingdom of God. All hidden things will be public things, and there will be no leverage points for sin to grow and fester… The enemy of God will be out of bullets, because we will be out of secrets…
Rick (firstname.lastname@example.org and @RickSkip on Twitter) has been editor of GROUP Magazine for 26 years. He’s author of the just-released book Jesus-Centered Youth Ministry (simplyyouthministry.com). He wrote the books Sifted (www.siftedbook.com) and Shrewd (www.shrewdbook.com) and the upcoming Skin In the Game (2015) as an excuse to immerse himself in the presence of Jesus.
8 thoughts on “The Secrets Society”
I started re-reading Manning’s “Abba’s Child” a few days ago and it deals with this very issue. On his “House Show” album, Derek Webb says that it would be best if all of our sins were projected on big screens because we’d have no were to hide. How freeing.
I’m thankful for a shared community and relationships that we may be at least “more” honest about ourselves and with one another.
And the irony of that is this—Derek Webb turned out to have his own big secrets. They created catastrophe in his life…
Some of the most concise perspective I’ve read on the subject of suicide and personal pain. And nary a youth ministry buzzword to boot! (Thanks for that.) As a person who has spent the last 6 years as a sober member of Alcoholics Anonymous I can attest to the spiritual truth that full disclosure before God and man (AA 5th Step) is life changing. Jesus is the yoke breaker. A city on a hill cannot be hid… It’s is only at the foot of the Cross, completely surrendered and naked before God that I have been released from the bondage of my own sin. Robin Williams a sad reminder that freedom ain’t free. It costs everything and it’s worth it.
Vini, thanks SO much for this response… I think we under-shoot the necessity of courage in life—it’s the fuel of freedom. And we have no courage apart from our long drinks of it from the “well” of Jesus…
When we let go of the fear that keeps us from exposing those secrets, it’s the beginning of freedom… oh, the irony.
Lisa, I couldn’t agree more…
Excellent article! I realy enjoy your insights. It’s so true that the secrets we have are what the devil uses to keep us from doing great works for God. Why do we feel we have to be perfect as Christians? Christ was the only perfect One, and when we acknowledge our struggles, we can get the help we need. Christianity isn’t the greatest religion because of the people (Christians themselves). It’s the greatest religion because of Christ Himself. I love how you always bring the conversation towards Christ. Thank you for this great truth.
Jim, thanks so much for taking the time to comment. I’m grateful for your encouragement….