Secrets Revealed

I never wanted to reveal the secret shame. But I had to let it out because it was so entwined with the story I was compelled to tell. The story of how my helpless, defenseless father was abused and neglected in nursing facilities. So I told the secret in Before the Door Closes: A Daughter’s Journey with Her Alcoholic Father.

Next I wrote Secrets Revisited, a collection of thirty-six personal vignettes showing the dynamics in the alcoholic family. Reliving each experience as I wrote it, I came to realize that through and in it all was God—seeing, knowing, and understanding.

 

 

 

The Second Beatitude in Action

The encounter was brief yet divinely directed. In only a few minutes, she had ripped open a deep wound that I was so sure I had stitched shut years before.

Miraculously, we were alone. Even the office help, as I discovered after our short time together, was not behind their plexiglass partition then—not at that distressing moment.

I knew she was getting ready to leave because of the door where she was standing. Soon a wheelchair would appear with her husband. Mine had just begun his oral surgery.

There was no way she could foresee the effect her comment would have on me. Nothing about it was out of place for waiting room chit-chat. To my dismay, immediately, it cut me to the quick. The kindness she mentioned that she had been shown was the same exact one I had been refused.

What happened next, I could not stop. Like unrestrained water from a burst pipe, my tears gushed out. Instantly, she was wrapping me in her arms, softly consoling.

Two strangers briefly met. One needed comfort. The other gave it.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted (Matthew 5:4 NIV).

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Intimidated

David intimidated? The David who killed Goliath? The David who was a fierce fighter? The David who wrote the twenty-third psalm? That David?

Yes, that David.

“And today, though I am the anointed king, I am weak, and these sons of Zeruiah are too strong for me” (2 Samuel 3:39 NIV).

Who were these sons of Zeruiah David was afraid of?  They were his sister’s boys, Joab and Abishai, who “murdered Abner because he had killed their brother Asahel in the battle at Gibeon” (2 Samuel 3:30 NIV).

Why did David not obey God’s law and execute the justice it required for murder?

Yes, Joab and Abishai had power and popularity with the army. But so had Goliath in his day, and that didn’t stop David from killing him.

Yes, they were successful on the battlefield. But David, too, was a winning warrior.

Yes, they had gained the respect of the people. So had David, for “all Israel and Judah loved David, because he led them in their campaigns” (1 Samuel 18:16 NIV).

Why, then, was he afraid of his nephews? Where was the David who had shouted to that giant Goliath, “I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty” (1 Samuel 17:45 NIV) and “The battle is the Lord ’s” (1 Samuel 17:47 NIV)? Why didn’t he turn over to God this battle with another giant—the giant of fear?

The answer is that David did not act upon his resolution of ten years earlier when he was in Gath, Goliath’s hometown. At that time, being “very much afraid of Achish king of Gath” (1 Samuel 21:12 NIV), he resolved before God, “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you” (Psalm 56:3 NIV).

What are you afraid of? Depression? Denial? Desertion? Discord? Drudgery?  Determine, come what may, to place your faith in God, clinging to “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.”

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Cursed!

God cursed their blessings! He did not remove blessings. He did not send curses instead of blessings. The blessings themselves were cursed.

Who deserved this?

And now, O priests, this command is for you. If you will not listen, if you will not take it to heart to give honor to my name, says the Lord of hosts, then I will send the curse upon you and I will curse your blessings. Indeed, I have already cursed them, because you do not lay it to heart” (Malachi 2:1-2 ESV).

The priests were God’s appointed spiritual leaders, but in worship services they did not bring the best to the altar. They showed utter contempt for God.

The priests were also God’s messengers. But they withheld truth from the people when they did not carry out God’s will that “a priest should guard knowledge, and people should seek instruction from his mouth, for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts (Malachi 2:7 ESV).

God has not changed His mind. Priests (aka pastors, ministers, parsons, preachers, shepherds of the flock) are to conduct worship services that honor and respect God as well as to present and explain what God says. Today, however, these two roles are often neglected.

While leading his church’s business meeting not long ago, a pastor vehemently stated he would not preach on homosexuality. Just as strongly he stressed that he was not allowing any of the associate pastors to do so. His declared reason: The pulpit has weight.

God’s instructions for right living would not be consulted. The Bible was closed. The voice of God in print was shut up.

When the messengers of God refuse to open the Word of God and teach the will of God, what do you think will happen?

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The Final Relationship

“We knew you got good grades, but we didn’t know you were smart.” So, that’s what they thought of me

How would I have known? Our relationship was formed biologically. My brothers and I were all but strangers.

We had grown from childhood to adulthood in the same house, but we never really knew each other. That was due to the shameful, secret relationship. All of us were enmeshed in it, but none of us mentioned it.

Our father was an alcoholic—a mean one. Each of us struggled alone to survive as best we could in that relationship. Actually, I should correct that.

Two of my brothers—Bill and Jim—probably talked about it. They cut lawns together. They played Little League together. They got part-time jobs together. They walked out of the house together and walked back in together. Of course, they would know each other and share in ways I did not.

Maybe I wasn’t included because they were born only ten months apart. Maybe because I was a girl. Maybe because I was the oldest.

But circumstances changed, and Bill and I were forced into a different relationship—a financial one. He held the power of attorney while I was the on-site advocate for our father in the nursing home. So, it was necessary for Bill and me, separated by 1500 miles, to talk about our father’s care.

One day, as we discussed what was best for him, I relayed how I had dealt with a problem. That’s when Bill blurted out, “We knew you got good grades, but we didn’t know you were smart.”

Then a new relationship surfaced. We had conversations about our children, our grandchildren, the past, people whose memory only Bill and I were alive to recall. What a discovery to find that we had a common interest in politics!

For the first time he sent me birthday cards. Through them our humor met and, now unmasked, recognized itself.

Finally, Bill and I had an open and honest relationship. Free to be ourselves together, we were no longer victims of shame. I’ll always hold in my heart the singing birthday card he sent me that symbolized our passage:

Do your boobs hang low?
Do they wobble to and fro?
Can you tie ’em in a knot?
Can you tie ’em in a bow?
Can you throw ’em over your shoulder
like a Continental soldier?
Do your boobs hang low?

This past May, after a surprising, brief illness, Bill died.

And the Lord will guide you continually
    and satisfy your desire in scorched places
    and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
    like a spring of water,
    whose waters do not fail.
(Isaiah 53:11 ESV)

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Extended Family

She wanted to speak with him, but these people were as thick as a swarm of locusts. Whenever her other sons tried to push a path for her, the crowd closed ranks.

Shouldn’t a mother have privilege when it came to talking to her firstborn child?

Later she was told that someone had informed him of their presence. Seizing this moment as an opportunity to present a spiritual principle, Jesus then “pointed to his followers and said, ‘See! These people are my mother and my brothers. Yes, anyone who does what my Father in heaven wants is my true brother and sister and mother’” (Matthew 12:49-50 ERV).

Was this another one of those incidents that Mary, the mother of Jesus, pondered in her heart? Did she know Jesus was not rejecting her or his siblings? Did she ever understand the point Jesus was making?

He was using family ties as an object lesson. There is a spiritual family, and everyone who does the will of God the Father is a member of it. This eternal relationship is beyond the earthly bond.

See what great love the Father has lavished on us,
that we should be called children of God!
And that is what we are!
The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.
(1 John 3:1 NIV)

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The If Hinge

Who he was got him noticed and promoted. Industrious. Clever. Hard-nosed. Pragmatic. Who he was also got his family line annihilated. Forever.

It all started when the king was impressed with his work ethic. “Now the man Jeroboam was capable, and Solomon noticed the young man because he was getting things done. So he appointed him over the entire labor force of the house of Joseph.” (1 Kings 11:28 HCSB).

Not long after, a reliable prophet told Jeroboam his career would escalate. For God was “about to tear the kingdom out of Solomon’s hands” (1 Kings 11:31 HCSB), and Jeroboam would reign as king over ten of the twelve tribes. That came to pass upon Solomon’s death when the kingdom split.

Latching onto the prophet’s promise that God would build him “a lasting dynasty just as I built for David” (1 Kings 11:38 HCSB), Jeroboam took steps to make it happen. His ten northern tribes must not mingle with the two southern ones and get any idea that things should go back to how they used to be. Those cracks had to be sealed.

So, Jeroboam built a place of worship in two cities and made a golden calf for each. “He said to the people, ‘It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Here are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt’” (1 Kings 12:28 NIV).

None of the Levites—those whose priestly line had been handpicked by God in the days of Moses—would help him. So, he appointed his own priests no matter their tribal identity.

And then there was the matter of the most joyous feast of the year. Jeroboam had to separate them from that. So, he kept the day but changed the month. Why go to Jerusalem for the harvest celebration when their produce had not yet ripened? Better to wait another month for their own bountiful thanksgiving feast.

Now Jeroboam’s lasting dynasty was a sure thing. Not really.

Within twenty-five years, Jeroboam had no descendants. A king “killed Jeroboam’s whole family. He did not leave Jeroboam anyone that breathed, but destroyed them all” (1 Kings 15:29 NIV). What! Hadn’t God promised to build Jeroboam a lasting dynasty?

Yes. But Jeroboam had ignored the if hinge. God’s promise hinged on “if you obey all I command you, walk in My ways, and do what is right in My sight in order to keep My statutes and My commands” (1 Kings 11:38 HCSB). Jeroboam did not consult with God. Determined he knew what was best, he drew up his own plan.

What did God’s blueprint look like? What would God have done to bring about this lasting dynasty? Jeroboam never found out. No one has.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding;
 In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.
Proverbs 3:5-6 NKJV

 

 

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Sister Tension

It was no secret that her husband did not love her. Leah’s father had tricked him into the marriage. Her beautiful, sexy sister was the one he had wanted since he first laid eyes on her. A week after the deception, he got Rachel too but only with her father’s condition that Jacob work for him another seven years.

She had hoped she would win Jacob’s love in the womb war. She thought she had when it was she and not her sister who presented him with his first son. Wrong. That didn’t make her husband love her. It did make Rachel furiously jealous then and every time she gave Jacob a son. She gave him six to Rachel’s zero. Still, Jacob did not love her.

Finally, after her last child was born—a girl—her sister’s belly swelled. Rachel gave birth to a boy, naming him Joseph. And what do you think? Jacob loved Rachel’s kid more than he did all seven of hers combined.

Throughout the years, being desperate for her husband’s love had kept her at odds with Rachel. But today she would step over the hurt and worry and stand with her sister. Today they would be in sync when they responded to their husband’s proposal. He wanted them to pick up and move to a people and land the sisters did not know.

“Then Rachel and Leah answered and said to him, ‘Is there any portion or inheritance left to us in our father’s house? Are we not regarded by him as foreigners? For he has sold us, and he has indeed devoured our money. All the wealth that God has taken away from our father belongs to us and to our children. Now then, whatever God has said to you, do’” (Genesis 31:14-16 ESV).

There comes a time to set aside differences.

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The Elusive Vista

The vista did nothing for me. Was it because I was too young to appreciate what I was seeing? Or because I had just climbed 897 steps to get there? Or because I had spotted that teacher using the elevator, an option denied us sixth-graders?

Unimpressed, I walked back down those 897 steps of the Washington Monument. What George Washington meant in American history never crossed my mind.

Aren’t those three barriers ones that can also hinder the worship vista? When spiritually young, we do not understand the religious panorama. We are like babies learning to talk. The “tion’s” are a mystery. Salvation. Redemption. Justification. Propitiation. Sanctification. Glorification. Damnation.

Some may have climbed countless steps during a fast-paced week and/or jumped over family hurdles before reaching the place of worship. The transition can be difficult. Often these worshipers sit in the church pew (cushioned or not) engaged in a miserable fight to stay awake.

Thirdly, the actions of others can divert attention away from reverential worship. Jesus dealt with that issue when He said, “What is that to you? You follow me!” (John 21:22 ESV).

Despite my humdrum reaction to the vista from the Washington Monument, I am glad I was there. I had made it. My class had made it. We may not have understood the expanse that was before us, but we had the experience together and were the better for it. Thus it is with corporate worship.

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near (Hebrews 10:24-25 ESV).

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Two Lifesaving Jonathans

Two Jonathans were instrumental in saving David’s life. The heir-apparent prince gets the most publicity. Time and again he kept David alive by thwarting his jealous father’s plans to kill the future king. The other Jonathan also had a part in keeping David alive. That time David had been king for thirty years.

Absalom had usurped his throne. While escaping from his son’s death reach, David sent a spy back to Jerusalem. He also handpicked who was to bring him the infiltrator’s intelligence: ‘“Are not Zadok and Abiathar the priests with you there? So whatever you hear from the king’s house, tell it to Zadok and Abiathar the priests.  Behold, their two sons are with them there, Ahimaaz, Zadok’s son, and Jonathan, Abiathar’s son, and by them you shall send to me everything you hear’” (2 Samuel 15:35-36 ESV).

Both Jonathans put their lives on the line for David. Both did their part to preserve his life. Although one gets more recognition than the other, both were needed.

Ready to go, ready to stay,
Ready my place to fill;
Ready for service lowly or great,
Ready to do His will.
(A. C. Palmer, 1845-1882)

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