The burden of a secret

I wrote this 4 days before I made an announcement to my parish and posted it the day before announcement day.

I have never been good with secrets. Confidences…yes. Secrets…no. What’s the difference? A confidence is kept to protect something or someone vulnerable, like a child or someone who is ill or in distress to give them space to grow and to heal. I carry the confidences of many of my parishioners, because what they share with me is not for general conversation. If not for my keeping that confidence, they would have nowhere to turn. I can carry these confidences and do, despite the attempts of many to use me as their news source.

A secret is generally kept to protect someone from the truth they really should face, usually the person sharing the secret, like keeping a friend’s infidelity a secret from her/his partner. The partner needs to know. The philanderer needs to be honest. To me, secrets are rooted in dishonesty.

But this isn’t a thesis. Back to my point which is, I hate keeping secrets, and I am holding one now and it is getting heavier by the day. I have taken to cocooning in my office so I can stop answering questions about plans being made that will be altered greatly once my secret is revealed. I panic every time the phone rings because it could very well mean I will have to lie. I hate being lied to, and I am a terrible liar.

There are several people involved in this secret, let’s just say more than ten. And I am counting on all of them to keep it quiet. Some are better than others. We all have a trusted friend or relative to whom we tell everything. The thing is, then those friends also have a friend they tell everything to, too, and all of a sudden too many people know my secret, most of whom are not the people who deserve to know by now but circumstances prevent me from telling. My secret is growing a life of its own.

Tomorrow I start sharing this secret with some who are closer to the circle that need to know. So, really, today is the last day when things remain the same for them. It all changes for them, starting from tomorrow. And then I have to ask them to conspire with me, to keep a secret for three more days.

A good friend reminded me that my last day of “normal” was actually months ago, when all this began, but things still feel relatively normal today, except for the hiding away and the complete inertia to engage anything new, feeling at the mercy of others who only have to invest about 15 minutes before changing my life forever. Have I been overrating “normal”?

So, why am I keeping this secret? Why am I forcing myself to live this lie? Well, that will come clearer when the announcement is made, but mostly its about controlling the message and making sure I and others have had the space to do what we need to do. As one mentor said, “It is living a lie, but it is the only way it works. There really is no other way.” Since he has lived the ordained life longer than me, I trust his wisdom.

I have been called to live openly in community. I took a vow to model my life after Christ, and to serve as a model to those whom I serve. Dishonesty is not something I wish to model. If I am lying to them, then it gives license for them to lie to me and to one another, doesn’t it?

Except none of us really has license to do wrong. Two wrongs don’t make a right, as they say. I don’t know if this is wrong. Others who know better than me tell me it is right, but it feels wrong to me. But don’t ask me what I would do instead. My answer would probably be to hide until announcement day. Which is kind of what I am doing right now. So I guess I am being true to myself, today anyways. But I can’t hide for four more days. I can barely hide for one more day.

If what I wrote above is true, that I am keeping this secret in order to give myself and others time and space to do what we need to do, then I guess it is a confidence. What feels different is that this confidence affects so many people, and it is about me; me being selfish and sneaking around and lying, so it feels dishonest.

Tonight I will actually spend some time with friends, some who know my news to varying degrees. When I thought about “who to tell”, I realized early on that I needed a group of people who did know, so I could call on them when the pressure got too great. I was reading today about Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, and the burden he carried, and how much he needed his friends. The gospels tell the story differently, but even Jesus chose a few trusted friends to share his burden with. Clearly, they could not go to the cross with him, they couldn’t even stay awake. He knew they wouldn’t, but in that garden, on that night, they were there for him. Even though they slept, even though they did not fully understand, they were there for him and, maybe, like me, he couldn’t have done what he had to do without them.


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