Monday, December 16, 2013


"The power of a secret sin lies in the secret." The counseling professional teaching the workshop for a group of women's ministry leaders went on to explain that once the secret was "out," the sin would immediately begin to lose power. It's stronghold would crumble.

I knew she spoke the truth, because Scripture teaches us that "if we confess our sins, he [God] is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9). Sin tucked away in darkness, hidden deep in our fearful hearts, begins to fester, to rot us from the inside out. But when our sin is brought into the light, laid out before the piercing gaze of our Father, true healing can begin. The Great Surgeon cuts away what is dead and infected, bathes our wounds with the life-giving blood of Jesus, and nurses us to health and vigor.

I knew she spoke the truth, because I have known the crippling power of secret sins myself. I have known the grief and despair of battling some hidden nastiness all on my own, determined to "beat this" before anyone found out, vainly struggling to maintain some outward appearance of godliness while drowning in absolute blackness on the inside.

I knew she spoke the truth, because I have been to that place of complete brokenness where all the pretty facades came crashing down. Where I could no longer maintain the appearance of being clean, of being good.

I can remember one such instance: a tearful confession to a dear college room-mate, a friend who met my horrible confession with grace and mercy. She did not respond to my nastiness by pouring on more guilt or by telling me to get my act together. Instead, she led me back to the Savior, to the Healer of broken hearts. My secret was out - and suddenly, it felt like the prison doors had been thrown open, like a beam of sunlight had pierced the abysmal darkness of a bottomless pit. Was I instantly free from ever having to struggle with this particular sin again? No, I battled it again repeatedly - but I battled it. It was no longer my master. It was no longer a secret, and it no longer had power to hold me captive.

My youngest asked me recently, "Where do your ideas for books come from?" Well, the ideas come from a crazy variety of sources. A conversation. A place. A personal conflict. A question I'm tumbling around in my head. A song on the radio.

Shortly after Steve and I moved back to Obion County, we were out walking on the winding narrow road that T's into the highway, just across from the Kendall driveway. We discovered a tiny family cemetery, a cluster of four or five gravestones tucked into a thicket of weeds and walled up by cedar trees. We wondered to whom these graves belonged, and how they had been "lost". Shortly after this discovery, we found gravestones in another nearby cemetery, some dating back to the 1700's. Wow! We tried to imagine what life here in the Tennessee hills must have been like for those earliest settlers. I wondered, "What if the ghosts of these people could be resurrected? Could walk among us and tell us their stories? Could connect us in some tangible way to a lost past?"

About the same time, I was adjusting to life back on the Kendall farm, right smack next door to my in-laws. I feared all the rumors I'd heard:  that multiple generations could not live together harmoniously, that mothers-in-law were destined to be grief to daughters-in-law, that conflict was inevitable. Thankfully, I can testify that those rumors were LIES. I simply cannot express in words how very grateful I am that I live just across the hayfield from Margie Kendall. She truly is one of the most beautiful, loving, generous women I have ever known. And, although I am sure I've probably vexed her occasionally over the years, she has never once spoken an unkind word to me.

And then, there was this business of secret sins. I knew from personal experience that my own secret sins could cripple me, causing me to implode under the weight of despair and grief. But there are other secret sins - sins that are not our own, but that are the sins of others - and those secret sins have the power to cripple us, too. These sins are even trickier to deal with, because, although we suffer the sometimes debilitating consequences of these sins, we do not feel free to confess them, to bring them into the light. These sins are someone else's to confess. Yet, the weight of these sins falls like a dark shadow across our shoulders, and it is easy to find ourselves in bondage to these "second hand" sins, as much as if they were our own.

Weave these ideas together, and you have the seeds for a story, Slow Sun Rising (see sidebar). What if the names on crumbling tombstones - what if these long-dead and forgotten people found fresh expression in the bright eyes and pink cheeks of a new generation of children? What if a young woman, desperate for family and for security, found a mother to love the person of her mother-in-law? What if a person wounded by the sins of another, struggling against the hurt and bitterness in her own heart, dropped the facade? And what if she refused to define herself - or the other person - on the basis of the sins committed against her?

This life is messy and often painful, and it rarely comes with tidy answers to help make sense of our struggles. Thankfully, we serve a sovereign God who orchestrates every single detail for our good and for His glory! Nothing is wasted - not one hurt, not one tear, not one doubt, not one stumble. Nothing. It is all redeemed.

Every true story - whether lived out in your life or mine, or told through the life of a fictional character - is a story of redemption, of resurrection, and of hope. Are you, like me, excited about turning the next page?

No comments: