Here's what I know: secrecy kills marriages.
Secrecy gives people the right to make claims, free from rebuttal or defense, about how wrongly they've been treated and how much better they deserve to feel. Words like "emotional abuse" and "verbal abuse" serve as ready-made templates one can mold and shape to fit the needs of the moment, to justify behavior and avoid introspection.
Abuse is real, and I'm not here to make light of abuse. I'm here for a personal reason: to remove myself from the shadows of secrecy. To leave no doubt that I am a sinner, saved by grace. Not perfect, but being perfected by a merciful and gracious God who loves me in spite of me.
Life is hard. Multiply that by about one million when you have a two year old. More if that two year old has a temper and a will as strong as his daddy.
I regret a lot of things I've done. I've put my hand through walls back in the day. I've screamed, yelled, slammed doors, and made all sorts of things worse. Desperation turns to frustration. Unchecked, I brought fear into my family because I was quick to anger, quick to speak, and slow to listen.
To be sure, I was a monster. A maniac. A tidal wave. Every time I came home from the office, my family cringed and waited to see what kind of mood I was in. I'm not proud of this. I'm telling you this for a reason.
But God is merciful and mighty to save. He sees our needs before we know we have them.
"And the Lord God said, 'It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.'"- Genesis 1:18 (NKJV)
God provided me with a helper. A kind, empathetic, caring helper that refused to run when any woman should have.
This helper taught me about gentle parenting and what it meant to listen to my impossibly difficult son. She helped me transform my relationship with him through her courage, persistence, and determination never to give up on me.
Now, my relationship with both my boys is better than I ever could've imagined. I'm so grateful to the helper God gave me. Without her, there's no telling what kind of man I'd be or how far away from me my boys would feel.
But there's no happily ever after to this story.
How'd I respond to my helper? I ignored her. Took her for granted. Wasn't attentive. Wasn't valuing her the way she deserved to be valued. Didn't keep my word. I betrayed her in some of the worst ways you can imagine.
How'd she respond? With the grace and mercy only God could put into a woman's heart. Undeserving, I vowed from that day forward to fix this.
No more secrets.
Why am I telling you this? Because I want you to know that I'm human. I struggle, like you.
But here's what I know: if you keep secrets in your marriage, there's a reason you're keeping secrets. That reason is staring you in the mirror.
Whatever reason you think justifies keeping secrets from your spouse, I've heard before. I heard them from myself, because I've kept secrets. Know why? Because she deserved it. She wasn't attentive enough. She didn't care. She didn't value me the way she should. She took me for granted.
That's what the self-talk sounds like when you're in the midst of destroying your marriage. I know. I tried. My own selfishness drove me to that point.
Was that self-talk true about her?
You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.- Romans 2:1 (NKJV)
It started with secrets.
I justified those secrets, blaming my helper for the things I was guilty of.
I trashed her in my mind, and I trashed her to others. I built a wall no good she did could penetrate, and I left myself open to all sorts of temptations free from her eyes to see.
When you set yourself up with that level of freedom, and that level of temptation, you will not stand.
Thankfully, the Lord rescued me. Once again, my helper put herself aside to pull me out of the pig pen. She put aside her own deep hurts and sadness and pain to reach a hand of mercy to this filthy, muddy, stench-filled shell of a man that remained after sin tattered me and took me about as far as it could take me.
God granted me repentance. See, repentance is a gift. You don't just decide one day that you're going to head in the complete opposite direction. God reveals to you that you can either go north or south on this road of life. There's no in-between.
North leads to the land flowing with milk and honey.
South leads to a storm you cannot withstand and to fire.
I stopped heading south and turned north because God granted me repentance, and he gave me the helper I needed to see my need for repentance.
Those are gifts for which I can take no credit.
But here's one thing I know: secrets destroy marriages. Secrets are walls that lock your helper out. Your helper can't rescue you from behind that wall.
God says that you are one. What are you keeping from yourself?
Secrets lead to "privacy." "Privacy" is a fancy way of saying you're free to do what you want without any accountability. Without any covering or hedge or restraint, you make the rules.
You see what satisfies your hunger, what's pleasing to the eye, and what seems desirable. You listen to the voice that whispers, "God would never deny you something good. You must've misunderstood what He said." The secret wall you've built locks out the voice that says, "You're headed for danger." The warnings shout from outside your soundproof wall of secrecy, but all you hear is your hunger and your appetite.
So you do what you think is wise.
What's your reward? How'd that fruit taste?
Like Adam and Eve, you blame. You hide. You feel shame. You feel naked. You got more than you bargained for.
Your helper wants to rescue you from the death you're biting into.
But you can't hear his cries. He's on the other side of your soundproof secret wall.