Stephanie Ehmke, MA, LPC
Done in Secret
“But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Matthew 6:6 (NIV)
We all have secrets. My guess is after you read that first sentence at least one “secret” you’ve been keeping may have even popped into your head. It could be something big that you’ve never told a soul and plan to take with you to the grave. Or, it may be something small, like you hide boxes of your favorite Little Debbie snack cakes from your kids so you don’t have to share. Ok, this was totally a secret of mine for years until my children busted me cramming one in my face while hiding in the pantry… no shame my friends. The truth is, we all have things we don’t openly share with others. I don’t know that I’d label all these things “secrets” but these are things about our lives that are simply hidden. Sometimes they are hidden out of shame or fear of what others might think. Sometimes they aren’t really hidden at all, they are just things about us that are unknown because we’ve never had the opportunity to share them with someone. Then there are the things that are hidden or “done in secret” because we are internally working on them with God and no one else knows or can see. To some extent, we are all working on something in secret. It may be issues with patience, anger, or bitterness. Or something much larger, like trauma, addiction, or marital issues. Whatever “it” may be, before anyone outside of you can see the results, an inner, hidden, “in secret” work must begin. Last weekend we had friends from out of town visit our new home for the first time. While we were so excited to see them, the evening before they arrived I began to feel a bit anxious. As I was cleaning the various rooms, I became very aware of the chaos my husband and I’ve become used to living in during this home remodel. Everything is clean, but boxes line the walls, holes are in the walls from plumbing and electrical work being done, the carpet to be ripped out later is stained, and that’s just a few things. I nervously laughed as I told my husband, “They are gonna think, how do they live like this!” Now, deep down, I know these friends well enough to be certain that they wouldn’t think that about us. Still, I was nervous so I texted that morning before they arrived, “Excited to see you guys today. A little nervous that the house is ‘rougher’ than you expect but it’s clean.” A few moments later in response, I received a text saying, “Oh friend, you know we don’t care! We are just excited to see you!” Whew… sigh of relief. Once they arrived, we took them on a tour of our home and shared our vision for each and every room. It was fun to share what we’ve been up to and to see their excitement for what we envision this home will one day be. But it was even better afterward to hear their words, “We are so glad we got to see the before and can’t wait to come back to see the after.” What great friends. After they left, I thought a lot about why I got so anxious, especially with people I trust. What I came to realize is that though we’ve been working non-stop on the house for several months now, the majority of the work (electrical, plumbing, roof, yard), while necessary to do first, is largely unseen to outsiders. We know how much we’ve accomplished and the price we’ve paid in time, money, and energy, but no one else really knows without explanation. Simply put, I became afraid of what my friend might think and tried to pre-empt any judgment with my initial text about the house being “rougher” than expected. As I sat today thinking about what to write, this story kept coming to mind. If I did this (allowed fear to grip me) with something so silly as a house we are remodeling with good friends, how much more do we as human beings do this with big things that we are working on in secret with God? I don’t know what particular thing you may be working on “in secret” with God, but let me remind you, he sees the work you are doing that no one else knows about and he loves your effort. Others may look at your life and think there is no progress, but trust the hidden work you are doing with the Savior. In time, your outside will reflect what is going on inside, but for now, let his gaze and presence be enough.
“Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Matthew 6:6 (NIV)
Jesus is the one true friend beside you in all your inner hard work. He beams as you pray for help, strength, wisdom, or whatever it is you need; knowing he got to see the before and can’t wait to see you after.
For Your Reflection… In what areas of life do you become fearful of what others may think? Talk to God about this specifically and ask him to help you only be concerned with his view.