As sick as our secrets

Smiling through the sick secrets in my life, 2000
Smiling through the sick secrets in my life, 2000

“We’re only as sick as our secrets.”

I’ve heard friends say this phrase repeatedly in the rooms of recovery for almost six years.

This week, an old college friend of mine was arrested and charged with multiple counts of possession of child pornography. I sat through several religion and philosophy classes with him, sang worship songs alongside him, and watched him help start a campus ministry organization. When I learned about his arrest as I unrolled our copy of the local paper, I was not surprised.

Don’t get me wrong. This guy seemed to have his stuff together, serving his church and community by working as a youth pastor and teacher. He was recently married to a lovely lady and had a bright future to look forward to. Honestly, I always viewed him as better than me, more together than me, much more fundamentalist in his beliefs and behavior, and certainly more in control of his sinful nature.

I just wasn’t surprised to learn of his arrest because I’ve learned, through my own walk with God and personal struggles with right and wrong, that things are not always what they seem. And certainly people are not always who they seem to be.

Not long ago, a childhood friend of mine was convicted on similar charges related to filming minors and other women without their consent. I shared Skittles with this kid at church camp in sixth grade. I nailed roofing shingles next to him in Oklahoma on a mission trip in high school. I climbed the Great Wall of China with him as part of a service trip teaching English as a second language to college students. And I felt very proud of him as he became a pretty well-known local evangelist. He, too, had a beautiful young wife and had just started his own family.

And then the truth came out.

I don’t know the ins and outs of my old friends’ sins. I have compassion for their families, and I wish that I’d been able to offer some help or extend a way out to these old friends who are now facing legal consequences for their actions. As someone who was raped by a close family friend at the age of 16, I know firsthand how far and wide our secret sins can impact others. The man who raped me is a victim of childhood sexual abuse. The man who abused him is a victim of childhood sexual abuse. The cycle of secret sickness infects and wounds and scars all those caught in the tangled webs we weave.

Sometimes we only see part of a much larger and more complicated reality.

I faked my way through life while suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. I managed to maintain a 4.0 grade point average while smoking pot almost daily for a year. I served in campus ministry organizations while struggling with sexual sin on and off again in my own life. I pretended to have blissful marriages while being affected daily by alcoholism and drug addiction in my home. I have cheated, lied, and felt worthless, all with a smile plastered on my face.

007Until I got real honest with myself, with God, and with the people I love.

I’m thankful I don’t have to hide from the truth today. I have no desire to keep secrets. Secrets kept me sick for years. I’m not willing to pretend things are fine when they’re not. I’m not afraid to look at the past. Not even God can change the past. I’m not afraid to face who I am today head on—God has enlightened me and shown me time and time again that if I am willing to live in the light, the darkness will not prevail. Any time I’m tempted to do something and feel that it might be better to keep it to myself, chances are it’s something I’d be better off without.

It’s my prayer that I might become more honest with myself and less judgmental towards others. Just because I can see the horrible truths in others’ lives doesn’t mean I’m not harboring plenty of horrible truths myself, unless I choose to live in the Light and honestly look at the truth of who I am every day.

“Only the truth and truthfulness can save us now.” –Sara Groves

8 thoughts on “As sick as our secrets

  1. LaTresha says:

    This song is so fitting……..
    I know that look you’re given
    Like you got something to prove
    ‘Cause I have walked for miles and miles in that same pair of shoes
    You refuse forgiveness
    Like it’s something to be earned
    But sometimes pain’s the only way that we can learn

    You can never fall too hard, so fast, so far
    That you can’t get back when you’re lost
    Where you are is never too late, so bad, so much
    That you can’t change Who you are

    You believe in freedom
    But you dont know how to choose
    You gotta step out of your feelings
    That you’re so afraid to lose
    Everyday, you put your feet on the floor
    You gotta walk through the door
    It’s never gonna be easy
    But it’s all worth fighting for.


    Let the ashes fall wherever they land
    Come back from wherever you’ve been
    To the foot of the cross
    To the feet of Jesus
    The feet of Jesus


    See, at the foot of the cross you change who you are
    At the foot of the cross you change who you are

    You can change who you are


    1. bethany says:

      Love the song, Latresha! And thanks for your other comment as well. I definitely want to live an open life. It keeps me closer to God and more like the person I want to be. And send that post :)!


  2. LaTresha says:

    Bethany, I am so proud of you for living out loud. That’s the only way to recover from the hurt and the the feeling of worthlessness. You are such an inspiration and God is truly using you to teach others, to show others that no matter what you have gone through or are going through you can beat it and live the life GOD promised you. I love you girl! (I still owe you “My Leap of Faith” post. You are such a great writer and have a way with words, still learning from you:) I will share this from my friends 10 year old son, who wanted to keep a tent pitched in their living room. Sounds simple but profound because how serious can you take yourself with a huge tent in the middle of the living room. Her are his words,”But it’s (the tent) the perfect fixture in a living room. I think half the world’s problems would be solved if they put a tent in the living room of their households!”


  3. bethany says:

    Mary, thank you! How awesome that you’re connected to Sara Groves. She’s one of my favorite artists by far. Lots of epiphanies thanks to her lyrics.


  4. bgjones says:

    The stark reality of these situations has not only shocked me, but saddened me. Not shocked in the surprised kind of way, but more in the stunning, paralyzing sort of way. Just as with the former, this week’s revelation leaves me caught in a mind trap…thinking about both the near and far reaching effects. I question how God fits into it, don’t you? The Sunday School answers are not sufficient. The cookie cutter Christianese statements about God’s love, healing power and ability to overcome don’t adequately satisfy my questioning heart and mind. I don’t question God’s forgiveness or His love. I believe that He waits on all of us to have a repentant heart for the sin in our lives – no matter what it is. I know my worth, in His eyes, is not greater than the worth of these young men, in His eyes. “As sick as our secrets” helps define the depravity of these situations. Thanks for the reminder that transparency is so very important in our lives!


    1. bethany says:

      Thanks BG… and you’re right, the Sunday School answers don’t cut it here. Ultimately it leads me to want to write about 20 other things related to this, but what I thought was important is for me to think about ME and God, and not point outward, which was my first gut reaction. Situations like these remind me why I believe that God is absolutely ABLE to control everything, but He chooses not to. He gives us choices, and some of those are bound to be horrific and have dire consequences for ourselves and others. What’s my part in it? I guess that’s the question I have learned to ask. My part is to examine myself, be honest with me and God, keep the lines of communication open between us so that nothing clogs things up. And to “mourn with those who mourn.” I feel like that’s something God repeatedly brings to me to do with various people in my life, probably because it gives me a chance to give back to the people who have shared their stories with me, helped me heal, wept with me, prayed for me, stood in the gap for me. Ok, I’m writing another blog post now…. anyway, I believe very little good comes from secrecy, unless it’s necessary for confidential purposes or something. I’m thankful God has taught me that, even though I insisted on learning it the hard way :).


  5. Mary says:

    Once again Bethany, you have written a gem. I can so relate to what you’ve said. Here’s a little factoid. Sara Grove’s dad preached the mid week service when my husband and I got saved and we babysat her when she was an infant. Small world. Her parents are still dear friends.


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