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A Terrifying Grace

My wife, Barbara, and I have been married for more than 30 years, and yet some corners of our inner lives remain dark to one another. We know a lot about each other—a lot. But we're still learning how to reveal secrets. It's still scary after all these years.

When we take a step back from marriage and think of other relationships, it becomes clear how much we hide from each other. Most of the time, we try to make a good impression: on the boss, the coworker, the neighbor, the stranger we hold the door for at the bank. We share various and sundry intimacies with friends, lovers, parents, children, and priests or pastors—but we do not tell everything to anyone. We hold back.

We hold back in wisdom. It's probably not a good idea to tell coworkers of the opposite sex about your temptations to lust. It's not wise for parents to tell their young children how they sometimes wish they hadn't had children.

But we also hold back in fear. What would he think if I told him how hateful I feel? Would she still speak to me if I admitted my addiction to pornography? Could I still work in the church if they knew how many doubts I have?

Would I be accepted if I told all? That's the question. We long to be accepted, to be in the company of someone who will not blink regardless of what we say. But long ago we came to believe that this isn't possible. At some point we have all chosen to share a vulnerable secret, only to later endure humiliation or shame. So now we live with a low-grade fear that somebody is going to find out something about us we do not wish to reveal. It's a fear that nags us for life.

Bringing God into the picture does not seem to help at first. But bring him in we must, ...

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A Terrifying Grace
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In the Magazine

June 2013

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