I am a priest of sorts. I am a memory bank. I am a repository for stories and confessions, excuses and blame. I’ve been consciously collecting secrets for almost 25 years now and I can honestly say that one or two of them are the heaviest things I’ve ever had to carry and all of them are heavier than they look.
I’ve spent the biggest part of the last quarter decade working with teenagers and children. I’ve heard their secrets and I’ve also heard the secrets they tell me about their parents. I’ve listened to people working the A.A. program go through a step that involves them sharing with another person the deepest and darkest that they’ve been carrying around all by themselves whose weight compounds their addiction. I’ve listened as people, respected by many, whisper things to me that no one should ever hear let alone experience.
Sometimes the secrets come accidentally. People reveal more than they intended to in simple dialogue and conversation. Normal is what we’re used to and sometimes we’re oblivious to how twisted our normal is until we say it or live it in front of others. Some of the things I know because I’ve asked questions that have led to answers that others would rather not hear and I wonder if I do them a favor by pointing out the man behind the curtain or if they’re better off with the illusion of their personal, great and powerful Oz?
Over the last year I’ve heard people tell me secrets about the kinds of things that other secret keepers have said or done to them. I take each story in as a kind of warning. I also ache for the pain I see that’s been inflicted by those who’ve assumed the role of a healer in people’s lives. I see myself, my own woundedness and tendency to hurt even when I mean to help and I struggle with the presumption of coming alongside someone to offer anything to them that comes from myself.
I am a keeper of secrets. I rarely look for them, they mostly find me. What I’ve discovered is the power of the story. As I’ve listened to others tell me their stories I am moved, humbled, warned, encouraged, inspired and left in awe. Like spiders webs that can carry more weight than they appear to be able to and yet can be broken so randomly and haphazardly by intention or by mistake, people are the most fragile and resilient of things in all of creation. I am in awe of people. What they can endure, what they can achieve, how they can love out of weakness, give out of poverty and turn tragedy into something holy and beautiful.
Not always though. And that’s another secret.
Right now I sit and wait with a couple for news that could crush a diamond. I’m watching another couple as the government comes by to kick them while they’re already down. I’m breaking bread soon with a couple who give and give and keep being met by people who take and take. I’m on the phone with a couple who have poured out the time of their lives onto the church only to get beat up for their trouble. And in all this and in all the other stories I hear, the secrets I keep, I find myself falling more and more in love with these delicate, beautiful, sacred, containers of the most amazing stuff.
I am a secret and there are those who keep me well and one who keeps me best.