Secrets are a funny thing. There are good secrets, like trying not to spoil a surprise. There are bad secrets, the kind that hold you in bondage and prevent you from truly living for fear that someone will find you out. Then there are those secrets that I guess can’t really be considered good or bad, but something that someone has entrusted to you and you cannot reveal them before they do.
The hardest secrets for me to keep are probably the good ones. Like when my husband and I recently surprised our kids with a trip to Disney for Christmas! That was hard to keep quiet, but it didn’t keep us from doing our secret happy dance every day leading up to it…leaving our kids thinking we had completely lost our minds.
I have also had my fair share of those bad secrets. Wow. Those were painful. Can I say, if you’re reading this and you’re someone who is carrying around that kind of secret, please find a trusted friend or confidant to confide in. We were not created to bear our burdens alone. Once you bring your secrets into the light, the darkness is powerless over them. I promise, you’ll feel better. The process may be painful, but it’s the only real path to freedom.
Now, those other secrets are tricky. You know you cannot divulge it and risk betraying the one who entrusted it to you to begin with. But if the secret affects you, it can be very difficult and painful to keep hidden. I recently had one of these secrets. At the end of summer, my very best friend, Charity, told me that she and her family were moving…to Texas. I live in the far northeast part of Ohio, so it’s not like she was saying, I’m moving to Pennsylvania or Michigan. It means more than 1,400 miles of roads between us, when we’re used to having only 3…
Obviously, I kept Charity’s secret, because she had good reasons for not wanting the world to know. Very recently, she let the cat out of the bag, and I was freed from my prison of secrets. Sounds dramatic, I know, but that’s how I felt. I didn’t even really realize how keeping this secret had been affecting me until I was able to let I out. It was like taking the lid off of a pressure cooker. Perhaps a better analogy for me (and I’m sure Charity would agree) would be letting the air out of a whoopee cushion…that is pretty much how it felt…PFFFT. Ahhh, a sigh of relief. And all those tears I’ve been holding in were once again able to flow. All the feelings I had been suppressing were floating back to the surface, like perfectly cooked dumplings.
When Charity first told me, I cried for days. I cried making dinner. I cried in the shower. I cried myself to sleep. I cried in the car. I walked around in a fog. I was grieving. In fact, I can say that the only thing I’ve ever grieved more was losing my dad when I was 19. Soon I realized that I had to put a lid on my grief, if I were going to keep this secret under wraps, as I had promised to do.
The problem with suppressing grief, is that it almost always surfaces somewhere else. I became depressed and couldn’t understand why. My life is not perfect. Whose is? But it’s good. I have a wonderful husband and three healthy, happy, bright kids. We have a home, food, great families, and many amazing friends. What do I possibly have to be depressed about?
I had some help getting through this from another friend that God has richly blessed my life with. Sarah is a friend who is going through a storm of her own, a storm that no one should ever have to go through. As much as it embarrassed me to say to her, one day, as we met for coffee, I was able to mutter the words “I’m depressed and I just don’t understand why. It doesn’t make sense and I feel bad for even saying this to YOU of all people. But that’s just where I am.” Sarah could have slapped me across the face and said “WHO are you to be depressed?!?!” But she didn’t. She did what a friend does. She listened. She offered advice. She didn’t tell me how to feel or how not to feel. She didn’t judge or condemn me. She loved me in my time of need.
More recently, I’ve been able to look back over these last couple years and see ways that God has been preparing a way through this. He is so smart. He always goes before us and makes a way. Even when we can’t see it. Even before we know that we need it. And now that the secret is out…He has been walking me through my grief, by showing me His hand in it. It still hurts, but as the feelings of hurt have begun to resurface, I feel Him showing me the “why”. Understanding that, I believe, is one of the keys to walking through grief. First, I have to admit that it hurts, and ignore the prideful parts of me that say “I’m ok.” Then, I must allow myself to feel the hurt. But knowing why I hurt helps me to truly process it.
Here are my “whys”…
Charity and I have been friends for 9 years. I realized that I’ve never had a friend who has been consistent and steady in my life for that long. Sure, I have friends who I met in childhood and adolescence that I still, and always will, consider friends, but life has taken us in many different directions.
Charity and I met when both of us were transitioning from old life to new life. Our stories are different, but we both surrendered our lives to Christ around the same time. We gave up partying and all the craziness that went with it. When you go through a transition like that, you need someone who understands.
Our husbands and kids have shared in our friendship. Our families enjoy each other just as much as we do. That is so hard to find.
Charity and I have reached the point of friendship where we aren’t “needy” friends. We don’t feel the need to fill every moment with excitement or conversation. We can have comfortable silences. We can sit and watch a movie, drive in the car, do whatever…in silence and be perfectly happy…Non awkward friendship is hard to come by.
And when we do talk…we never have to worry about being judged. We’re both equally yoked in craziness and weirdness.
Where I am weak, she is strong. And I’d like to think , vice versa…even though I think she has waaay more strengths than I do.
We have keys to each other’s houses. I like to kid her that I use her house for emergency bathroom breaks. Maybe I’m kidding…
We are emergency contacts for each other’s kids. If she ever gets in a pickle, she knows I’ll be there for her, and them. And I know she’d do the same for me and mine.
She had a surgery in the spring last year, and I happily went and sat with her and waited for her to be discharged, so I could drive her home. And, someday, when I kiss my lady parts good-bye…I can’t imagine many others who would do the same for me, but I know she would.
Charity has many other friends, and so do I. She’s not a jealous or possessive friend. She understands when I need to spend time with another friend and she doesn’t feel threatened by it. And I know that I have to share her awesomeness with others sometimes, too…
There’s so much more that I could say, but to put it simply, everyone needs a person…and Charity has been my person for 9 years. God has knit our hearts together and although I know that distance doesn’t mean we can’t be friends anymore…it definitely changes things. I can’t honestly say that I know what the future of our friendship looks like, but I’m pretty sure she’s not getting rid of me that easily.
It has also made me realize that I need to open myself up to others. Through this process, even before I realized what was really happening, my friend Sarah has definitely become my person as well. She shares so many of the same wonderful qualities as Charity, and has many of her own as well. God knew what He was doing when He brought us together. He knew we needed each other, long before we did. Like I said, everyone needs a person, and sometimes God knows that you need to have more than one.
I truly have so many great friends, and I don’t discount any of them, but we all know that feeling when God knits your heart together with someone else’s…And if you don’t know that feeling, open yourself up to the possibility of it. I’m not a knitter, but I know knitting a sweater or, whatever else it is that knitters knit, takes time…Knitting hearts is no different. But the investment of time usually comes with the reward of something wonderful that’s been created.
Just know that the process can be painful. The price of feeling is hurting and the price of loving is losing…But they are prices I gladly pay, many times over, for having the blessing of true friendship.