I was talking to my wife the other day. "Remember Billy-Bob?" (Not his real name).
"Sure you do. I worked with him 35 years ago and a few years after we moved here he got in touch with me. He came here to visit. You remember."
"Sure you do. He was that blue-haired guy (not his real color) that was a rocket scientist (not his real job)."
I was surprised. He was memorable ... you know, blue hair and rocket scientist and all. So I pulled out the computer and did a search. "I bet I can find a picture of him somewhere online." I did. "Here," I showed her, "this guy."
"Oh, yeah, I remember." Then she peered at the picture. "What is that picture from?"
I looked. Strange; it looked like a mug shot. I hunted it down. It was. Turned out that this guy I carpooled with 35 years ago that visited us in our home was doing a 40-year prison sentence for kidnapping and raping an underage step-daughter ... twice. I was stunned. I never would have seen that coming.
You've heard it, I'm sure. The news crew is interviewing the neighbor of the guy that decapitated his dog, gouged his eye out, and stabbed his wife. The neighbor is saying, "He seemed like a nice, quiet guy. I didn't expect anything like that." Or that kid that robbed a liquor store, stole a car, and shot it out with the police ... his mother in front of the camera is crying, "He was always such a good boy." It makes you wonder. Like my not-quite-fictitious ex-coworker all of whose details were changed to protect the guilty, we often don't see it coming. How many of us, do you think, have that kind of a secret life?
We are commanded to love one another which is to be the emblem of believers (John 13:34-35). We are commanded to bear one another's burdens (Gal 6:2). We are supposed to restore sinning Christians (Gal 6:1). So why is it that most of us feel that expressing our troubles, concerns, failures, and such is not safe in the company of believers? Oh, sure, we can share prayer requests. "Please ask God to help my neighbor." But what you will likely never hear in your church circles is "Please pray for me while I struggle with porn" or "homosexual desires" or "lust for my neighbor's wife" or the like. You can express a concern about your husband's potential loss of a job but not about your desire to leave him. "I'm suffering from cancer" is acceptable; "I'm suffering from doubt" is not. So we isolate ourselves in these secret chambers of our lives. "This" is acceptable to my family and fellow believers and "that" is not, so I'll keep "that" to myself. And, look, no one else is talking about "that", so I must be dealing with it all by myself. No one else seems to have that problem.
Is it any wonder we end up with secret lives? I mean, I get it among unbelievers, but how is it that Christians who are supposed to be identified by their love for one another believe there is no safe place for them to express their fears and struggles and sins and to get help? Wouldn't it be better if this was not the case among believers? I'm just sayin'.