A few years ago George O’Leary, then the head football coach at Georgia Tech, was given his dream job—the head football coach at Notre Dame. What could be better than a guy named O’Leary coaching the Fighting Irish? A few days after the best day of his life, the worst day of his life occurred. It seems that many years previous, he had padded his resume, claiming master’s degrees that he was never awarded. For more than twenty years no one noticed, but now that he had the highest profile college coaching job, someone did, and he was never hired. And there he was, exposed, and all alone.
This was a high-profile incident, but everyday people like you and me live with similar secrets. There’s the young mother taking care of young children who gets so angry that she could just scream. And often she does, and sometimes the frustration just pours out of her and she can see the fear in her children’s eyes. She hears about mothers who harm their children, and she wonders if she’s capable of that, but she doesn’t tell anybody. And she feels so alone.
Or there’s the well-respected business man who has to have a drink for breakfast to face the day, who keeps a bottle in his desk drawer and sneaks sips throughout the day. Every night he tells his wife he’ll be up soon, he’s got more work to do, but in reality he’s just waiting for her to go to sleep so he can have one more drink. He tells himself he can stop if he wants to, but he knows it’s not true. And he feels so alone. That’s what happens when we try to hide our secrets from others—we isolate ourselves and feel so alone.
When I was in 8th grade I thought it would be cool to smoke cigarettes, so one day, when no one was looking, I bought a pack from a vending machine. I kept them hidden in my room, and would grab them just as I left for school each morning. I had to keep them hidden because I knew my parents would kill me if they found out. But it was also near time for tryouts for the basketball team, and I knew the coach would kill me and cut me if he found out. Bordering the school were some woods, and once I was safely in the woods where no one could see, I’d light up, and crush it out by the time I emerged on the other side. Now, what’s the point of being cool if no one sees you? But there I was. One cigarette walking to school, one walking home, all in the woods where no one could see.
Tryouts came, and I survived the first cut, then the second, and then came the day for the final cuts. Mom wished me well that morning, knowing how much I wanted to make the team. And sure enough, before practice was even over coach called ten of us off to the side and told us we had made the team, go downstairs and get fitted for uniforms while he watched the rest of the final tryouts to decide what two guys would join us on the team.
We celebrated, got our uniforms, changed clothes, and went home—and, of course, I went through the woods on the way home. And when I got home, Mom was in the bedroom reading, and I went in and told her I had made the team, and she got all excited and wanted a hug and a kiss. I realized, however, that she’d be close enough to smell the tobacco on my breath. So I held my breath while we hugged, and turned away when she kissed my cheek, and prayed. Then I went and brushed my teeth, and went in my room and closed the door behind me. All alone with my secret. I’ve still never told her.
And so it is with human beings. We keep secrets. We wear masks with each other. We get very good at hiding. Our greatest fear is that somebody might find out, that the truth might get brought to light. But that’s not the worst thing that could happen. The worst that could happen is that no one will find out, that the truth will never come to light, and you will go to your grave and you will meet your God having lived a lie that enslaved you your whole life long. You were made to know and be known. That’s why God created you--to know and be known. It is the deepest desire of any human being. Our habit since the Fall is to hide as if our life depended on it when if fact our life depends on getting found, on being known, because there’s no healing in hiding. There isn’t. Pain avoidance, maybe, but no healing. Some people have been hiding for years. You try not to think about it but it’s true, and that secret keeps you from fully experiencing love. Because even when somebody tells you they love you inside there’s a part of you that says to yourself, “I know you say those things, but you don’t know the whole truth about me. If you knew the whole truth about me you would not say what you say now.”
So here’s the truth: you cannot be fully loved if you are not fully known. That’s why there’s such a connection between knowing and being known, loving and being loved. You can only be loved to the extent that you are known. And here’s the further truth: through Christ you are fully known and fully loved by God. Your life depends on you accepting that.