by Lina AbuJambra
Sophia is the Greek word for Wisdom, and Propel Sophia seeks out the voices of truly wise women and asks them to share worked examples of how they express faith in daily life. Pull up a chair at Sophia’s table, won’t you? There’s plenty of space.
I sat in my therapist’s office debating whether I should tell her my deepest secret. The longer I waited, the worse I felt, and the less I wanted to tell her. What would she think of me once I told her the truth? Would she still want to be my therapist? What if I told her and nothing in my life changed? Or worse—what if I told her and everything in my life had to change? I kind of liked the way things were.
I clung to the status quo as long as I could. I told myself that no one would ever find out. I convinced myself that I could enjoy what I was doing just a little while longer. I reasoned that if it really was a big deal to God, He would have punished me by now. And, the thing about secrets is the longer you wait, the harder it is to confess them.
We all keep secrets. We keep secrets because we’re ashamed of what we’ve done. We keep secrets because we want others to think the best of us. Deep down we’re all a little bit scared of what others will think of us. We create a façade, an image that we try to protect at all costs. If only we understood the freedom that comes from revealing those secrets.
A study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology identified 38 common categories of secrets that people keep about themselves. They found that 97% of people have a secret in at least one of those categories, and the average person is currently keeping secrets in thirteen of those categories! And yes, you are correct to assume that most of them are about sex.
We often see headlines of famous pastors and Christian leaders whose lives have imploded by sexual scandals: all men. All with a secret life that no one knew about until they did. Sadly, we women in the church have our own dirty little secrets, too. Recent statistics show that only 13% of self-identified Christian women say they never watch porn—that leaves 87% of Christian women who do. Most women don’t talk about this in their small groups—at least they never did in mine.
We don’t really know one another as well as we think we do. At any given time, you might be talking with someone who is hiding a secret addiction to drugs or alcohol, or someone who once had an abortion, or someone who is cheating on their spouse.
We all have secrets that we think no one will ever find out. We think if we shut the door to the closet tightly enough, no one will try to open it. But eventually people do find out.
And of course, nothing is secret to God. We are deluding ourselves if we confuse His silence with indifference. God’s temporary silence is more like His mercy, waiting for us to step into the light. If we insist on hiding secrets that are hurting others, God will eventually step in. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like He steps in soon enough, but He does always respond with justice and mercy.
When I was in my twenties, I used to live in fear of the fact that God saw every little thing I did. One of my primary motivations to stop sinning back then was the idea that Jesus might come back while I was masturbating. I couldn’t think of anything worse that could happen to me.
It scared me enough to stop for a while, but fear is a temporary motivator to do the right thing. Only love can change the heart. Love, it turns out, is a far better motivator for change.
I finally did tell my therapist my deepest secret. One of my fears was that I would be rejected by her once the truth about who I was came out. Instead, I was met with compassion. I was given understanding. Love has made all the difference in the world to me.
Are you keeping a secret that you’re afraid could ruin you? Have you tried to tell someone only to live to regret it? Do you feel buried by the weight of your shame? Have you looked for safe people in your churches only to find none? Don’t redefine truth to make room for your secrets. Don’t justify your secret to shake off your shame.
If, beneath the rubble of your shame, you have a nagging sensation that something’s gotta give, and a hope that there might be a better way, I’m here to tell you that there is. His name is Jesus and He’ll always meet you with compassion.
So…maybe it’s time you let go of your dirty little secret, too. Freedom might be waiting for you on the other side of love (John 8:32).
Lina AbuJamra is a pediatric ER doctor now practicing telemedicine, and founder of Living with Power Ministries. A popular Bible teacher, podcaster, and conference speaker, Lina is the author of several books and bible studies, including her most recent book Don’t Tell Anyone You’re Reading This, and her bible study Through the Desert. Lina is also the host of a radio show, and in her “spare” time, she provides medical care and humanitarian aid to Syrian refugees and others in disaster areas. Learn more about her at livingwithpower.org.