He left. And when he left I didn't speak of it for a year. I was twelve or thirteen, really just a little girl trying to be big, and never spoke of it to anyone outside our home for at least that long. The fear and shame and hurt was so deep that I had no words, my heart and mind too little to handle something so big. People knew, of course. There were seven of us kids and there was no big organized conspiracy to keep it from the people we knew. But I somehow unconsciously decided that it was too ugly and I was too ashamed to let any of my friends or teachers know how broken we were. So I didn't say a word, not even to my best friend across the street who must have known something was off. The shame was overpowering and the wound too deep.
It was my first skeleton.
We think of those closet skeletons as something rare. Maybe it's because we've told ourselves we're the only one or we'd just like to be the optimist who hopes so anyway. Or maybe we're one of those people whose closet has been kept clean and ordered with everything mostly right where it should be. (God bless you!) But the more I talk to people the more I think that it is they, the clean-closeted ones, who are the exception. The rest of us? We have our secrets - the sins that hold us bound, the wounds that scarred our souls, the situations that are too full of shame and regret to share. We are held bound by our fear of the pain, the judgement, the assumptions, the rejection. For many of us, even those who profess the power of the cross, there are sins still too scandalous, too ugly, too bloody to talk about. There are even still a few that society would frown upon. So we bury them deep hoping that they'll stay hidden and quiet and just leave us alone, or at the very least, never ever come to the public light. We shut up and hope that no one ever tries to get in. We small talk and smile and guard our closets well, learning the art of distraction so no one can see the dirt.
Closets are where we put the stuff we don't want out in the open. They're closed and dark and they feel like a safe place to put the mess. Instead they become the perfect playground for the one who loves the dark. The prince of it whispers in our souls that it's too ugly, too dirty, too messy for anyone to see, even Him. Because as long as we're afraid of those past wounds and sins and give them the power to bind us and keep them hidden away in fear and pain, Satan still wins. Christ comes to bring light and freedom, to heal every wound and to break every chain. Where darkness is, Christ is not. "For freedom Christ set us free," St. Paul tells us. If we trust in God, in His mercy, in His forgiveness, in the power of Confession, and in the reality of redemption, then those dirty little secrets become a vehicle for grace and mercy. We turn sin upon its head when we allow it to be where Christ's glory is made manifest. If we throw open the door and let His light shine in upon the mess, the blood, the bones, it is only then that He can work to transform them into something beyond our wildest imagination.
Perhaps it is those very skeletons that have the potential to be our sanctification. Maybe it is in the deepest shame and regret that God most wants to bring healing and light.
So we dig out those bones - the abuse, the raging anger, the DUI, the sexual perversion, the drug problem, the affair, the suicide attempt, the abortion, the childhood wound, the eating disorder, the family secret, whatever it is that we bury down deep or tap dance around because the fear and shame is just too much. We turn on the light, we dig them out and we blow off the dust. And then a funny thing often happens. When we, trembly-handed as we may be, reach for the switch, we find that while the pain may be deep and the healing take work, the light isn't nearly as scary as we thought. We find a person or two or twenty who looks in and says, "mine too." We find healing and freedom and the reality of a God Who loves us beyond and through our dirtiest of secrets.
Perhaps it is in that very wound or sin or shame that Christ wants to purify you. Never the way we thought, far from what we would plan, He reaches in to the very darkest parts of us and asks us to repent and to allow Him to turn that evil into something beautiful. Perhaps by bringing it further into the light we can help others who hurt. Perhaps the cross will still be there painful and stinging but at the same time redeeming and glorifying. Perhaps by being willing to drag out those bones and bring them into the light, we will find ourselves part of a glorious story of healing and redemption.
That doesn't necessarily mean we need to break into the speaking circuit or pen that tell-all or share what God may want private all over the internet. Not usually anyway. But we need to say it. We need to have the conversations in the right setting. We need to drag those bones out of the closet and bring them into the light. Because it is only when we do that that they lose their power over us. It is only then that the surgeon can see the wound enough to heal. It is only then that they can be redeemed into something beautiful. I believe that often it is in and through these very wounds and sins that Christ wants to transform us. I believe that when we bring those skeletons out into the light of Christ and let Him work we will see something amazing - that some day those ugly old bones will have been transformed into the relics of saints.
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