The secret life

Published 1:51 pm Saturday, February 10, 2018

by Charles Qualls

A recent Tom Cruise movie was built around the true story of a fellow named Barry Seals. Some friends of mine chose to move out of their house for two weeks so that scenes for the movie could be filmed there. Seals was a commercial airline pilot who eventually ended up flying surveillance missions for the CIA, running drugs for the Medellin Cartel of Columbia and smuggling weapons to arm the Contras for Colonel Oliver North — all while keeping his secret from his own family for years.

Ultimately until his death, he made a lot of money. He didn’t die of natural causes, though. The cartel killed him. It was tiring just watching the portrayal of all he did to keep up this double (triple?) life he was leading. His secret was destructive of lives around him, and ultimately cost him his own.

We like secrets. Especially other people’s secrets.

Secret lives are taxing to lead. Maybe you’ve tried. I think most of us have, to some degree. Maybe little things when we were young. Maybe big things as adults.

Yet, here we are just after Epiphany. A season in which we often focus on the identity of the Christ.  And, the stories in which that identity is slowly made more clear.

Jesus is clearly moving now in Mark 1: 29-39. He is preaching and teaching. But, he’s also doing things that will raise eyebrows. He is healing and exorcising unclean spirits now, all while trying to not let the public, specifically the religious leaders, know who He is just yet.

So it is that we see Him not permitting the unclean spirits to speak because they knew him. That line fascinates me.

One scholar says that she cannot help but notice the irony that Jesus works so hard to try to keep His secret even while healing people who are also living secretive lives in some way. Lepers and ill-people and demoniacs were somewhat a secret, if for no other reason than the isolation they had to keep from the normal people.

Oh, normal people knew who most of these isolated souls were. But, they kept themselves from really knowing what their lives were like by banishing them to the edges of society.

Of course, if normal people back then were like “normal” people today, few of them were really all that normal themselves, were they? About right here, I should acknowledge the obvious. We don’t need to know everything, do we?

I once got to know a 92-year-old woman who was under hospice care. She had retired from several decades with the CIA. I would soon conduct her funeral. As we were talking she said, “I sit right here in my den and learn things on the news that I shouldn’t hear.

A lot of those things should be classified. They would’ve been in my day. People just can’t keep their mouths shut.”

So, we’re not talking about the kind of necessary confidentiality that keeps the world safe and that protects people’s dignity. The kinds of secrets I am talking about are the other kinds. I think you know the difference.

What secrets are keeping you from living fully? What keeps you in the shadows? Jesus was just about the only secretive person I have ever truly admired, because He was keeping His secrets for all the right reasons.

Have you ever pondered the fact that apparently the so-called demons knew Jesus better than the religious folks who followed him. What did they know, these unclean spirits, that went beyond what everyone else seemed to know by this time?

Jesus had a job to do, and timing was of the essence in only revealing His true identity when the right season arrived. The Easter story shows us the religious leaders eventually killed him because, in part, by then they did understand who he was.

Knowing the critical difference between bravery and recklessness — such a thin, faint line at times — is a matter of maturity and wisdom. The Messianic Secret, then, comes off as Jesus being responsible to see that all He needed to accomplish was done before He handed himself over to be finished.

May we have minds to comprehend and spirits to ponder. May we also have the maturity to know the difference between the secrets that rob us of life and the secrets that make more of life possible!

CHARLES QUALLS is senior pastor at Franklin Baptist Church. Contact him at 562-5135.