Sunday, July 27, 2014

what sort of secrets we should steer clear of

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Recently, we heard on the news that a young, former Subway employee threatened to leak all their secret recipes over the internet if they refused to pay him a given sum for keeping quiet. My first reaction was, 'What secret recipes could Subway possibly have? Everything is spread out plainly to see. They make sandwiches!' Then I remembered that my nephew, Travis, who once worked there, told us that there are indeed hidden details concerning their bread and cookie dough recipes. (He didn't tell us what they are, though.) It seems there's more to Subway than meets the eye.

How fascinated we all are with secrets. Once, when I was very young, I pretended to have one to tease and intrigue my big brother. He tried to wheedle, bully and trick it out of me, until I tired of the game and admitted that it was all a bluff. My game backfired on me when he refused to believe that, assuming I was backing out so I wouldn't have to tell him. Finally, I tried to make up something satisfactory enough to get him off my back, but couldn't come up with anything that would wow him enough.

What is the big attraction of knowing something that nobody else does? Primary school kids seem to latch onto the intrigue of secrets without ever being taught. 'This is top secret!' they whisper with big bug eyes. Some of us may remember having secret hiding places, or trying to write secret codes with our friends. It gives us a sense of inflated importance, especially if our acquaintances make it clear that they really, really, really wish they could find out.

We don't discard our fascination with secrets when we grow up. The news and internet are filled with tantalising snippets about things which have supposedly been covered up, until now. Rhonda Byrne's best seller was called "The Secret." But sometimes secrets can get nasty and sinister. Adult secret clubs, such as the Freemasons, claim to be full of secrets which they'll only reveal to insiders. Before I was born, my parents were involved with a certain church which filled their heads with all sorts of secrets they haven't divulged to this day. They came up far enough in the ranks to hear 'secrets' they were told not to ever tell anybody, lest bad things happen to them. Although they've long broken away, Mum admits that she's nervous 'just in case' and Dad scoffs, 'I've forgotten all that rubbish, except that it was silly.' But he's still never told us anything, and we're more than happy not to know.

True Christianity has secrets of its own, that's for sure, but when you think about it, they differ in a major way. This may seem a crude analogy, but I believe true Christian secrets are more like scavenger hunts and crossword puzzles. They are created especially to be figured out, and not to be hidden indefinitely for the so-called elite. I'm sure that God completely understands our natural fixation with secrets, and at the same time, he doesn't want to cheapen every good gift by simply handing it to us. Which pearl of great price would you value most? One which somebody throws to you as soon as you decide you'd like it, or one which is strategically hidden so that you have to search studiously, dig up garden beds, plead for clues, scratch your head?

This is why God sometimes presents his truths as secrets. When Jesus walked the earth, he never wanted to hide things for all time, but to reveal them. He spoke in parables to give people the opportunity of thinking and pondering until they got an intuitive sense of what he was trying to say. Even his birth was a secret from the regular or self-important folk, who would never have dreamed that their saviour would be found in a manger full of hay, surrounded by farm animals. But it wasn't hidden from true seekers with honest, searching hearts, like the Magi who came from the far east, bearing gifts.

In some of his letters, such as the one to the Colossians, the apostle Paul reveals one of the biggest secrets, or mysteries, his readers could fathom. 'This message is the secret that was hidden from everyone since the beginning of time,' he writes. 'But now it is made known to God's people. The secret is Christ himself, who is in you. He is our only hope for glory' (Colossian 1:26). What a great secret indeed, unfathomed by those who race around trying to find him in other places. And the margin notes in my Bible add that God provides salvation for anyone who will take it, and doesn't require that we know hidden secrets and accept certain inside information to accept Jesus' message.

So perhaps when it comes to secrets, alarm bells should start ringing when the secrets are covered up with a 'this is not for the likes of you' type of attitude. Another type of secret to steer clear is, 'I'll tell you this privileged information, but whatever you do, don't let the riff raff out there know, because they aren't enlightened enough to ever understand, and something bad will happen to you.' One of the most dangerous bogus secret of all, which has been the downfall of many deluded seekers, is, 'The world is going to end on such and such a date, so let's take action by doing so and so.'

Let's keep enjoying the simple, wholesome type of secrets which are meant to be eventually discovered, and turn away from the other sort which are designed to remain murky, concealed and never known by some. I think, if Eve had kept the distinction in mind way back in Genesis, she wouldn't have been so easily duped by the serpent who suggested that God was dealing sneakily with her, holding back knowledge which may benefit her. She would have been more inclined to say, 'I know that's not the way He operates, but it's your way, so push off!'   

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