[Below is a revision of the meditation I offered at our Ash Wednesday services. I think it is worth us keeping in mind throughout Lent.]
We all have them, don’t we? Secrets are common to us all. I suggest that secrets are a necessary and important part of life.
Have you ever had a friend who was terrible at keeping secrets? What happened? You lost confidence and trust in that person. In my position, maintaining confidentiality is critical in some situations. People need assurance that what they say to me or to Steve will not be made public.
But there are secrets, and then there are secrets… Not all secrets are the same. Some of the secrets we hold are healthy and bring life. Others are unhealthy and bring destruction and death. The difference lies in what the secret is all about.
In Matthew 6: 1-6, 16-21, the Gospel passage for Ash Wednesday, Jesus several times repeats the phrase “And then your Father, who sees what is done in secret.” To be sure, in this Matthew 6 passage Jesus is painting a contrast between those who make a show of their piety and practice in order to be seen by others, with those who turn to God quietly and sincerely. (By the way, Jesus didn’t say those who make a show are necessarily insincere – he said they have received their reward already.)
I think the issue in these verses goes deeper than such a simple contrast. Jesus is directing us here to the inner life, to the things we do in secret. Jesus is saying “Tend to your inner life.” “Develop secret practices that connect you to God and bring life.”
We are now in the season of Lent, and Lent gives us just this opportunity to tend to our inner, secret life.
The kind of secrets I want and need to develop more this Lent are those that connect me to God and bring life. I invite you to do the same, to develop your secret life with God. It will take added commitment and time, and it is just between you and God, but it is worth the effort.
What about the other kind of secrets, the ones that are not healthy, and if unchecked, can lead to destruction? Lent gives us an opportunity to deal with these as well. We deal with them first of all by stopping and taking an honest look at ourselves. The first step is in admitting the reality of the destructive secrets we hold – the ones we keep from others, deny about ourselves, and pretend that God doesn’t see… The second step is coming clean and confessing the secrets to God, and possibly to someone else. (Someone who is able to keep confidences.) This is what gives Lent its penitential character. The final steps are to receive forgiveness and restoration, and then for us to seek to live differently than we did before.
Secrets, secrets… Lent is all about our secret life! It’s about letting the light of truth and the love of God shine on the dark and destructive secrets we hold, and receiving the grace to deal with them. It’s about further developing a secret life with God that connects us to Him and brings yet more life.
This year, I invite you and me to the observance of a holy Lent.
I mentioned in Musings last fall that I have been asked to participate in an effort bringing together Law Enforcement and leaders of the African American community in a facilitated dialogue to foster communication and understanding. The name of the Group I am a part of is BRIDGE, which is short for Building Relationships, Increasing Dialog, Gaining Empathy.
The first dialog is scheduled for March 21st at Campbell Law School in Raleigh. We will be bringing 12 police officers from Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, and Cary together with 12 advocates from the African American community, along with other participants.
It looks like I personally will have a small part to play in this initial conversation. That’s okay, I look forward to more dialogs to come!
I do not yet know if this event is open to the public, or reserved for those with special interest. I will keep you posted. In the meantime, I bid your prayers for this effort at healing wounds in our area.
See you Sunday!