July 29, 2021
Many of us carry secret questions, and we are hungry for answers, but we need someone safe. Someone secure in themselves yet vulnerable to listen well.
When the pastor sermonized my personal story, I felt exposed.
I was once in a small group in a church, where our Pastor taught us how to be leaders in the church.
Once a fortnight, we would meet, talk about what was happening in our lives, then he would give some teaching, perhaps a visiting speaker would chat with us. Overall it was a good thing.
I felt safe. That was until the Pastor used something that I shared in total privacy as an illustration in his sermon.
Now, most of the people in the church service would not have associated the story with me. He didn’t say my name, but there were enough people there to know that this illustration was about me.
I felt exposed, angry, and violated. I had given him my trust, and he used my struggle for his gain.
I never trusted him again.
Another story of exposure. I shared something deep with a pastor, and they, too, decided to share it with others. Then the story gained momentum and a life of its own.
Some people shouldn’t be in positions where they are to hold another’s heart. They are not secure within themselves to keep a fragile gift.
I’ve heard people’s stories, still do, but I don’t share them. I will go to the grave with them. Fortunately, as one person said, I have a very good ‘Forgetter Computer.’
When you’re living in fear of exposure
For many of us, we have questions and struggles rolling around in our heads, but we don’t want anyone to know.
All the internal struggles. If we disclose them, then we’re sure to be rejected, dismissed, abandoned.
So we create an alternative life that is very secret. We don’t feel safe with the ones whom we’re meant to feel safe with.
We think we are the only ones with these struggles.
And if you’re that person reading this, then I want to assure you that you’re not the only one living a secret life.
I think we all do.
We present to the world one face, while all along, we have another world in which we have unmentionable questions, crazy thoughts, and wild passions.
But we have no one safe to express the internal drama, and so we are stuck.
We type our questions into Google, scour the screen for answers, and sicken ourselves with comparisonitis.
We might even send a postcard to at least tell the universe.
He came in the night.
There is a wonderful story of a man who was in this dilemma.
He didn’t want the exposure, but he still had questions. Every kid in Sunday School memorizes the answers he got.
His name was Nicodemus, and he was someone who was supposed to have all the answers, the religious answers.
His role in society in Jesus’ day was that of a Pharisee. He was a keeper of the religion.
But then Jesus came and threw the rule book up in the air and talked about relationships.
We find the story of Nicodemus in three places.
The first is when he came by night to Jesus.
Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.” John 3:1,2
It’s interesting to see that Nicodemus ‘came to Jesus at night.’ He didn’t want to be seen connecting with the Christ, but he was hungry with questions.
So many of us are like Nicodemus. We are hungry with questions, but if they were to be told, we could lose our social ranking, status, safety, and even our family and friends. We risk exposure if we show ourselves.
The next time we meet Nicodemus is when he is defending Jesus’ right to free speech.
Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus earlier and who was one of their own number, asked, “Does our law condemn a man without first hearing him to find out what he has been doing?” John 7:50, 51
The final time is when he cares for the crucified body of Jesus.
Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus.
Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away.
He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds.
Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. John 19:38-42
Two men, both living in fear, were the ones to touch the crucified body of Christ. Secret servants.
Are you living in fear of someone or something? The body of Christ welcomes your attention.
By the way, note that Nicodemus brought a ‘mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds.’ That’s 34 kgs—nothing secret about this man’s love for Jesus.
The story of questions
I want to connect with people living in fear of exposure.
Someone once wrote on my whiteboard
‘Will I be loved if they knew the real me’?
We could add other questions of exposure.
- Will I be loved if they find out about my porn addiction?
- Will I be loved if they find out about my comfort eating?
- Will I be loved if they find out about me getting help?
- Will I be loved if I don’t go to Sunday church anymore?
What’s your secret that you fear exposure of?
And so we come by night looking for connection.
In the story of Nicodemus, we see a story of spiritual formation. From the questions said in private to being with another secret servant and the adornment of a dead body.
Knocking on the door
In my mind, I imagine Nicodemus sneaking through the streets and dark alleys. Then, finally, he comes to the place where Jesus was resting.
He knocks on the door, waits, hides in the shadows, the door opens, and he quickly dashes in.
Jesus and his followers look to see a man, a pharisee, and they wonder.
He has his questions. Is it safe to speak? Is there a traitor in the room?
He moves close to Jesus and with a whisper begins his carefully prepared question.
But Jesus throws him questions about his question. It’s a style of opening the heart for a deeper connection. Jesus is a master at this style of meeting the heart.
By the way, Jesus still throws us questions that invite us to walk on water.
When we come with our deepest secrets to God, we come to one who is fully aware of the whole of our story. God knows more about our story than we know ourselves. Therefore, nothing surprises God, and nothing will shock them.
God is not one to expose us to the darkness and the frigidity of nakedness.
They clothe us with compassion and love. They envelop us with community. They don’t throw us to the opinions and judgments of humanity. They don’t have a judge’s gavel ready to fall upon the tenderness of a secret.
Being the one that welcomes
I need someone to welcome my mystery—all those secrets, questions, and fears.
Not someone to spread the word and to pick up a megaphone.
I also don’t want someone to give me a quick answer—the textbook solution. More so, I want someone to explore the secrets and offer me other questions that journey me down new paths.
Isn’t this what Jesus did with so many?
He spoke in parables and stories about wheat and wind, hidden treasures, and lost coins.
Stories were told to confuse those listening with logic, but to those listening with the heart, a hungry heart, there was allurement for more.
How it works here
How it works here on Turning the Page is that you can knock on my door by sending me an email. It’s as private as that.
You can also access all the books, courses, and conversations with me on a Pay What You Want basis, which includes Free, just if someone is watching your bank account and you don’t want them to know.
I am trusting in a God of a bigger economic providence than what humanity is constraining itself to.
You can come out of the dark here; you don’t need to be alone anymore.
Quotes to consider
- Grace shows up when logic breaks down. Richard Rohr
- Love acts like a giant magnet that pulls out of us, like iron filings, every recorded injury, every scar. Terrence Real
- Integrity is often a willingness to hold the dark side of things instead of reacting against them, denying them, or projecting our anxiety elsewhere. Richard Rohr. Eager to Love
- “Sensitive listeners respond to comments with words that convey an interest in hearing more, sentences that open the door to information. Words that open doors transmit two messages: 1. ‘I am interested in whatever you have to say.’ 2. ‘I will accept you regardless of what you say.'” Larry Crabb
Questions to answer
- When have you felt exposed?
- What are the secrets that you want to have someone listen to with openness and love?
- What would it be like to be in the room where Jesus and Nicodemus are in conversation?
Photo by Ashley Light on Unsplash