“I’ve got a secret!” –Popular television game show of the 1960s and 1970s.
Recently, a man I know wrote of the secrets his family was harboring as they struggled to deal with an addictive, out-of-control relative.
“You know how the family gets ready to host a guest and the house is clean and in order and nothing out of place? The guest is impressed. He wishes his house could be this neat and organized with nothing out of place.”
“But what he doesn’t know is that there is one room where you have stored all the junk and clutter. If he were to open the door to that room, he would be amazed.”
That, he said, is how things are for a family that tries to keep up an image when they are about to come apart.
They push things back into that private room, whose door they dare not open.
It’s about family secrets.
Everyone has them, he said.
One of our deacon families was hosting a gathering of church members. I was amazed at the lack of clutter. They ought to see my house, I thought. But they had no stack of newspapers, no unread or partially read magazines lying around, no stack of books to be donated to the library or returned there.
When I asked our hostess how she did this, she surprised me.
“Brother Joe, there is one room you dare not look into. That’s where we dumped all the clutter!” And she laughed.
Do we do this with the human heart, I wonder. Have one room that holds all the family trash, all the clutter, all the stuff we dare not show the world?
It is true that everyone has their secrets, things they dare not tell the world. And, I will go so far as to say that’s normal. It’s even probably healthy.
I do not want to know that you and your spouse had an argument last night. Neither do I need to know about your private lives, the intimacies (or lack thereof) between you.
Keep it to yourself. It’s all right.
For months, Fran had cared for her ailing husband before death finally claimed him. She was literally worn to a frazzle. Their long marriage had been difficult, but she had been faithful and had kept the family secrets. And now that was all gone. That’s why she did something highly questionable.
Within hours after the funeral, the widow told her children: “No more secrets.” What followed was her announcement that she felt strongly that she and a family friend had grown close and would someday marry. “I wanted you to know,” she said. “I’m so tired of keeping secrets.”
That was one bit of news the family wished she had kept to herself. They were not ready for this and could not handle it.
Some things should be kept secret: What a couple does in the bedroom does not need to be told. What the husband or wife did before marriage (or before coming to Christ) should be left behind. If the couple went through counseling and the garbage came out in the safety of the sessions, they should forgive and forget and go forward.
So, let no one who reads this think Joe is calling for complete openness about every detail of our lives. You do not need to know everything I’ve done and I have no use for that information from you.
But many of us maintain secret rooms in our spiritual houses which need to be cleaned and disinfected and aired out. We’re talking about repentance of sin, and healing and a new holiness.
A bizarre little incident took place in the days when Nehemiah was leading God’s people to rebuild the walls around Jerusalem. Throughout their long, hard ordeal, the Israelites were opposed and harassed and undermined by their pagan neighbors, led by Sanballat the Samarian, Tobiah the Ammonite, and Geshem the Arab. (These brutes are active throughout the book of Nehemiah, and receive an ‘A’ for persistence!) Finally, the wall is completed around the city and things are moving forward. That’s when Nehemiah the governor makes a discovery.
Eliashib, the high priest, who was in charge of the various store rooms in the temple, turned out to be a relative of Tobiah the Ammonite due to the forbidden practice of intermarriage with the pagans. On one occasion, when Nehemiah returned from conferring with his boss, the king of Persia, he “discovered the evil that Eliashib had done on behalf of Tobiah.” And what was that?
He had provided the enemy Tobiah “a room in the courts of God’s house.” (Nehemiah 13:7).
Get that? The enemy of God’s people was given an apartment in the Temple. It would be hard to think of anything worse.
Nehemiah says, “I was greatly displeased and threw all of Tobiah’s household possessions out of the room!” But he did not stop there.
“I ordered that the rooms be purified.” And he did not stop there.
“I had the articles (instruments of worship) of the house of God restored there, along with the grain offering and frankincense.”
He threw out the offensive material, had the place fumigated and washed down, and then furnished the room with holiness.
Sounds like a plan, doesn’t it?
Nehemiah adds, “Therefore, I rebuked the officials, saying, ‘Why has the house of God been neglected?'” (Neh. 13:11)
There are fewer joys in this life more satisfying than knowing your entire life is open to the Lord, that all the rooms are His, that you are completely clean and pure, and you are fully free in Christ. Jesus once said, “The ruler of this world is coming and he has nothing in me” (John 14:30).
We must not stop until this is the case with each of us.
“…to You our hearts are open; nothing here is hidden. You are our heart’s desire….” (“Here for You” by Matt Redman)