I recently enjoyed my annual trip to our family hunting cabin in pursuit of the elusive white tail buck. While I had a wonderful time, the word elusive accurately describes my three days spent in the woods of Columbia County, PA.
This year my brother-in-law distributed t-shirts bearing the proud name of Camp YO-HO. The back of the shirt appropriately declares, “What happens at the cabin, stays at the cabin.” I sense some of this is to initiate newcomers with the most important rule of Camp YO-HO.
I am sure many have heard similar comments during family trips or gatherings of friends. While this humorous saying is usually harmless, I am often intrigued by the secret-keeping that is common within our families and faith communities. For example, while at the cabin, my gift-giving brother-in-law shared that the football team, coached by his son, is under investigation for using racial slurs towards an opponent. I was surprised to learn he only knows about this because his daughter-in-law, not his son, informed him. We were asked not to tell other members of the family.
I immediately went online and found no less than four stories of the alleged accusations. It seems so odd to treat a public story with such secrecy. Yet I bump into this approach on a regular basis in our faith communities too.
Though rarely identified, I have discovered a slew of reasons why secrets are encouraged. Image is a big factor. We often fear what others will think if less than positive realities are named publicly. We do not want a loved one or respected friend to be seen in a negative light.
At times, our fear of conflict also keeps our lips sealed. More difficult decisions will need to be made if known struggles are stated clearly. Public acknowledgement can raise tension or even harm an institution or business. Hence, it may be easier to keep silent than to name known abuses. Such abuses can take the form towards children, money, power, corruption, or manipulation. Most notably this has happened in the Catholic Church, Penn State, and the USA Gymnastic program. We must also admit that it happens within Mosaic Conference, our churches, institutions, and individual families.
The interesting thing is that we often keep secrets to keep unity and peace. However, secrets do not deliver either. The writer of I John declares, “If we walk in the light, as God is in the light, we have fellowship with one another” (I John 1:7a, NIV). To walk in the light is to expose or be transparent. When we learn to live exposed, transparent lives, then, and only then, will we experience genuine relationships as God intended.
When and for what are you most tempted to keep secrets? May we pray for God’s wisdom to help us live in God’s exposed light. May we have the courage to build families and create communities of faith that graciously expose all to God’s light. Just maybe, we will begin to experience relationships as God intends!