Last week, I wrote a rather vulnerable blog series that discussed, among other things, the importance of story sharing. But, ironically, while working on that series, I attended a discussion at church on the importance of secrecy.
So, which one is it, I thought, story sharing or secrecy? Will the real helpful practice please stand up?!
Simple answer: both story sharing and secrecy are helpful practices. “There is a time for everything, and a time for every activity under the heavens,” Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 says, including “a time to be silent and a time to speak.”
Specific answer: the time to be silent is in the midst of sacredness; the time to speak is in the midst of shame.
I’ve gotten pretty good at the whole “time to speak” thing. I’ve written blogs describing the reality that “shame is broken when it is spoken,” read books with titles like Permission to Speak Freely, and love jamming out to OneRepublic singing “I’m gonna give all my secrets away” or John Mayer crooning “say what you need to say.” We’ve grown accustomed to hitting the “share” button on everything in our lives.
So, I’m going to focus the rest of this blog on when it’s “time to be silent.”
This is for “mountaintop moments” like when Zechariah emerged dumbstruck (literally) from the temple of the Lord (Luke 1:19-22) or when Peter, James, and John saw Christ transfigured on a mountain and “kept the matter to themselves” (Mark 9:9-10). They totally could have tweeted about what they saw. (@stpeter: “Saw Elijah and Moses talking with Jesus today! No joke, THE Elijah and Moses. #UltimateThrowbackThursday) But they didn’t. It was just so stunningly holy.
I used to try to think up some long, eloquent Facebook status on Easter. But, now I think it’s sufficient to just say “Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. Alleluia.” Or even to say nothing at all. It’s just so stunningly holy.
Sacred secrecy is for moments of achievement when it can be so tempting to tell everyone that we’re #winning. As Dallas Willard puts it: “One of the greatest fallacies of Christian faith, and actually one of the greatest acts of unbelief, is the thought that spiritual acts and virtues need to be advertised to be known.” Achievements that go unrecognized are still achievements. Kindnesses done anonymously are still kindnesses. They can be advertised and sometimes will be (award ceremonies happen; that’s life)…but if we feel a need to advertise them, we are pursuing fame rather than faith.
Finally, I think sacred secrecy can be for moments of decision, when people hearing about the decision would each have different, biased opinions to offer. This only pulls the decision-maker in different directions like a rubber band that actually just needs to wrap itself around one thing (i.e. God) and rest there. Sacred secrecy can have the courage to make certain decisions by listening to God and God alone (as well as maybe seeking input on specific questions from prayerfully selected advisors).
What does this mean? I’m always going to be a proponent of telling people things that we truly need to get off our chests. So, maybe sacred secrecy means asking ourselves: “Do I need to share this?” If your message could help you alleviate a burden or if it could encourage or educate others, then be brave and speak out! But if not? Well, be brave and hold your tongue.