The Problem with Secrets

In Frederick Buechner’s book, Telling Secrets, he recounts experiences in his life he has hidden out of fear and shame. The take-away message for me, as I read the book, was that when I lay bare my secrets, a certain freedom comes with releasing them to the rest of humanity. When I reveal these secrets, I give God the chance to use them to redeem me and perhaps offer freedom and redemption to others as well.

I am fairly transparent, but there are some things I would rather not share. There are some things I would like to keep hidden, but as I have heard so often, “our secrets make us sick.”

What I am about to write has more to do with my fears than it has to do with hiding something out of shame, although I have my fair share of those secrets as well. The other issue with writing about this is that I am not the only player. I am trying to figure out how to tell the story with integrity because while I might feel led to share my part of the story, the other person may not feel so open to that. So I trust that God will use this, in whatever way it takes form, to touch the hearts of my readers.

Today when I opened my Facebook account, I received a note from a friend I hadn’t seen in  a while. Here is what she wrote:

Lynn,

I was listening to this Sara Groves song this morning and I thought of you. I so enjoy your facebook posts & blog. I love hearing your heart & your honest struggle for growth & beauty. You are beautiful!

What I want to do is share my story alongside the lyrics here. The lyrics are poignant and I do not mean to take away from them. I only mean to tell more of my particular story, my secret, in addition to them. Lyrics will be in italics, my story in plain text.

Lyrics to Add To The Beauty :
We come with beautiful secrets
We come with purposes written on our hearts, written on our souls
We come to every new morning
With possibilities only we can hold, that only we can hold

My beautiful secret is that I live in a marriage that is broken. I am a broken woman. My husband is a broken man. But in this brokenness, my heart has been transformed and my life is being redeemed. As I said in an earlier blog post, there are times when we have seriously considered calling it quits, but by God’s grace we continue to work on ourselves so that we can come back together healthier people. So like the song says, every morning we face a new possibility, a choice to let God use our pain to draw us closer to him and closer together, or turn away from him which always, always results in more pain. I also have a choice as to whether I will believe there is a purpose not just for our marriage but for me in all of the turmoil. The possibilities for our marriage and for my life are only mine to live because this is the story God has scripted for me and my husband. It may not be the life I would have chosen, but it is my life nonetheless and I can fight it or embrace it. Today I choose to embrace it.

Redemption comes in strange place, small spaces
Calling out the best of who we are

Redemption, or the freedom from being caught up in self-pity or victimization, comes from many places – my friends, family, a perfectly blue sky, my children’s laughter, a great book, a moving song- all those small things that touch my heart and remind me that I will be okay. I can keep taking steps toward a better me, a more whole me.
And I want to add to the beauty
To tell a better story
I want to shine with the light
That’s burning up inside

I DO want to add to the beauty. I wan to tell a better story. I don’t want to give up. I want to do everything in my power, and especially everything in my weakness, when I fully rely on God, to have victory in my relationship with my husband and in all of my relationships. When people are shocked at the pain in my life, it’s often because I’m smiling a lot of the time. I am not one to walk around looking gloomy. I smile, not to cover up the hurt, but because when I am around others I am generally joyful. I see so much of God in others and it brings me such joy. My smile is an offering to the people I am around. It’s a simple gift I can give. A warmth I can share, even when my heart is breaking into pieces. This is one of the best lessons I have learned in life – that two contrary things CAN exist at the same time – pain and joy.

It comes in small inspirations
It brings redemption to life and work
To our lives and our work

If I look hard enough, I can find something to be grateful for, even when everything around me seems so bleak. When I am overcome with sadness, I often write a gratitude list and it reminds me of all that is good in my life. Inspiration comes in a variety of ways, too, such as great art, music, nature, touch and my senses in general. Noticing these small inspirations serve as a constant barometer that I am fully alive and engaged in the redemptive process.

It comes in loving community
It comes in helping a soul find it’s worth

This is the essence of why I am writing this blog post. I am passionate about helping others see their worth. I want others to be free from the shame and bondage they feel when they focus on their mistakes or their woundedness. I am passionate about loving community and being open to where God wants me to enter in and love someone in a particular moment, a season or a lifetime. My loving community has circled around me in ways that I never could have asked for, in ways that I do not deserve. My parents, my friends, other family members, teachers, friends of friends… all have been Jesus to me, loving me and cheering for me and for my marriage.

Redemption comes in strange places, small spaces
Calling out the best of who we are

And I want to add to the beauty
To tell a better story
I want to shine with the light
That’s burning up inside

People have asked me how long I will hang in there. How long and how much will I give of myself for the sake of my marriage. My answer is always the same – until God tells me otherwise. I am not the most patient person on the planet but if I keep the focus where it should be, which is on the hope of a better story, I feel strengthened. The strength and patience does not come from me. It comes from all the ways God cares for me and holds me in the pain.

This is grace, an invitation to be beautiful
This is grace, an invitation

I LOVE this. I have an invitation to be beautiful. I want to be beautiful. I want people to be drawn to me, not because of external things or looks, but because I have light that shines out of me that is from a deep love that God has poured into me and overflows to those around me. I want to be beautiful so I can love my friends and family and the random people I meet on the streets every day.

The rest of the song repeats itself… add to the beauty to tell a better story, shine with the light that’s burning up inside…. This is my prayer. But it’s not always easy. So I’m very grateful to my friend Lisa, who sent me these lyrics on a day like today. Which brings me to the second secret.

The actual event is not a secret. We have been sharing this news with several of our friends so that we can be covered with prayer. It’s the fear of the event that is the real secret. The paralyzing fear.

Tomorrow my husband will be on the oncology unit at a local hospital for a 5 hour administration of a chemo drug that has been shown to improve mobility for mulitple sclerosis patients. It is a serious drug and comes with a black box warning, which is the FDA’s highest warning label, stating that the drug can cause death. He will start at a certain dosage for a half hour and if he tolerates that well, they will increase it to the next level.

While this is mainly about him, it affects our entire familiy. So, here’s is the secret I am keeping:  In all the work we have done to heal our marriage, my fear is that just when we are getting to a place of reconciliation, he will die.

Whenever I have a fear like this, which can paralyze me, I usually push it away and try to think positively. But I can’t shake this one. I don’t want to dwell on the “what ifs” but I also don’t want to be blind to the possibilities and realities of what this drug can do to his body. I am also fearful that if it doesn’t work, that he will enter into a depression that will consume him and steal joy from our family as we face the continuance of his disability.

Dealing with this disease and all the dreams it has shattered is hard enough. We have dreamed new dreams and we have made adaptations and allowances for life with a chronic illness, and now we stand at a crossroads of hope and despair. I know that if it doesn’t prove successful, it’s not the end of the world. I know that. But he is so tired. And I am tired and we both want some relief. In different ways, of course. I am not the one who lives in a the body that is deteriorating day by day. My weariness is completely different. But our hope is the same, that this experimental use of this drug will bring about more mobility and feeling, and provide deliverance from the daily symptoms that plague his body.

So I tell my secrets in order that God’s work can be seen by others.  The troubles we face in our marriage and in this disease are way too much for us to handle. These are big issues. On top of these issues are the daily stresses of the kids’ needs, maintaining the house and activities and appointments, not to mention finding a little time for some self-care (like writing). Without God’s intervention, I could not function. My hope is that by sharing my fears and pain, others will see how I was held and cared for in the midst of the storm and know that they can survive as well.

Here’s one more quick story to illustrate how God cared for me yesterday. After a very difficult onversation with my husband, my heart ached and I felt incredibly alone. I went about the day in a complete fog. I couldn’t think straight. Couldn’t eat. Couldn’t carry on a conversation without losing my train of thought.

Adding to that sadness was the news I received from a writer friend. One of my writing mentors had unexpectedly passed away two days prior. No matter what, I would have been sad. But because of the messages I have believed from our marriage difficulties, (that something is wrong with me, that I am not good enough, etc.)  the news came as quite a blow. This man had been one of my greatest cheerleaders, always wanting to know what I was working on and when he could read my latest chapter of a book in progress. He edited my manuscript and provided suggestions to each chapter. I saw him in July and when I walked into the room, his face lit up with a great, big smile as he headed my way to give me a hug. I will miss him greatly. At a time when I most needed a cheerleader, mine had died, and with him – the belief that I was good enough.

See, these are the lies we believe when we don’t get them out. We start to believe these messages and we put too much weight on what others think of us instead of what our Father, our Creator, thinks of us. So instead of adding to the beauty to tell a different story, we stay stuck in lies that keep us self-focused. So as if God was reminding me that I am beautiful just as I am, he sent my friend and her sister over with a batch of cookies and some bright, yellow gerber daisies.

Later that evening, I was looking at some pictures of my friend, Tony, and his kids on Facebook. He’s divorced from my childhood friend, and it made me sad to see the three of them without her. Literally, as I am looking at the photos, I hear my e-mail signal ding. I click over and there is a message from Tony! Incredible. I don’t even know how he got my e-mail address as we are not in regular contact. The only connection I had with him was his marriage to my friend. After the divorce, he sent us a sweet note, but we’re mainly Christmas card and Facebook friends, so an e-mail was a bit out of the blue. This is what he said:

Hi there Lynn:
Sometimes, the Lord just speaks.  And on that rare occasion, I actually listen……  So, as I was on fb tonight, saw your “face”, read some of your heart, and this came to mind….

(HERE WAS A POEM HE HAD FOUND CALLED THE CHERRY TREE, but since this post is so long already I won’t add it.)

Hope you are well in the midst of the horrible, wonderful storm!
Blessings, Tony

These are not coincidences. The love and support of my friends is a direct link to the love and support from my God. Had I not put out some of my secrets, even on Facebook, that I was hurting and broken, I would not have received these amazing, God-given gifts. So, tell your secrets. Let God use them to bring healing to you and to others who may be feeling alone in their struggles. It may feel too personal and some of them may be – especially to share in a venue like a social networking site. But maybe there’s a friend or a small group that would benefit from you sharing your heart and trusting that God will not ask you to throw yourself overboard just to watch you drown. Instead he will be able to show just how mighty he is to save.

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Categories: Uncategorized | 5 Comments

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5 thoughts on “The Problem with Secrets

  1. Hey, dear Lynn.

    Thanks for entrusting your heart to me and your readers–a very daring thing to do. It speaks of your ultimate trust in Jesus and an inner strength that comes from growing more whole. You are beautiful, Lynn. I have always had a profound fondness of you and a desire to know you. I am grateful for our visit weeks ago. It helps me picture you right now, pray for you, be present to you in your fear, uncertainly about tomorrow. wow. I can’t imagine how hard that must be. Well, without sounding glib, I am so very motivated to pray for God’s surrounding presence for you and Brett. Bless you, dear Lynn. Thanks for sharing. Beth

  2. I so agree with you that telling our secrets brings us freedom and allows our situations to connect to the lives of others–even bringing a chance for some kind of healing for others and sometimes for ourselves in our pain. I ache with you and for you. I will pray and hope with you and for you both as well. Thank you for being brave. It matters.

  3. Nichole Barber

    Lynn,
    Thanks for being being so brave and opening yourself up. I needed to hear these words today.
    We will be praying for you, Brett and your boys.
    Nichole

  4. Lynn,

    You don’t know me but I got your post from my cousin Leslie Booth. I don’t know if she knows how fitting or timely her sending me this post was but it came at an amazing time. You have no idea how much I have related to this post. My husband has recently been diagnosed with MS. He started to have symptoms 2 weeks before our wedding (May ’08) and was finally given the diagnosis in July ’09. I don’t know how long your husband has had MS or how advanced he is and how long you have been married but I can totally relate to the fears and secrets that you were talking about. My ultimate fear is that I will not get to know and live my life with my husband the way I would if he were disease free. I can already see the toll that it is taking on him and us as well. I love him with every ounce of my being but somedays are very difficult. I know we are still both wrapping our minds around the fact that he has a debilitating disease. We are going to counceling to help adjust. I am also trying all that I can to help us live the fullest, best lives we can while we are together and he can still fully function.
    I want to thank you for your inspirational post, it helped me open my eyes even further. I am a christian but right now I am struggling. Your beautiful words have helped me to realize that I need to keep my focus on the Lord no matter how hard my situation is because he will ultimately be the solution to all my problems. I too am not a very patient person so I will have to focus harder and not be so selfish.
    Also I am sorry to hear about your friends passing. I am sad for you because of the loss and the timing of the loss.
    I hope that the new MS treatment works for your husband as well.
    Thank you again. Keep smiling and God bless.

  5. Wow, Lynn. I can’t say anything any better than Beth did, above. Except to say I’m just reading all this today, and wish I could’ve been praying for your day in the hospital and for everything else for years. It is, however, a privilege, to hold you and cover you in prayer today. To celebrate the demolition of your fears. To praise the God who is, has, and will always set you free. And to rest in the knowledge that He will use your story and redeem the locust years. He will. And indeed, in some ways, through these recent blogs, He already has.

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