Every election season about this time, we see a lot of people come forward seeking office, but inevitably many of them give up in shame because a little searching found some skeletons hanging in their closet. If someone went searching–really searching–what skeletons would they find in your closet?
If you’re like me, you know the answer, and it scares you to have anyone rooting around in there. On the outside, you may have learned to be suave, to say all the right things so all the people will think all the right things about you. But on the inside, you’re a mess, barely holding it together and you have too many neuroses, too much sin. You feel like a monster.
What lurks in the secret chamber is a world of regret, shame, everything you wish was never a part of your life, but it would be just too risky to let anyone in. There’s the monster we’ve tried our best to contain, feeding it occasionally hoping it doesn’t eventually feed upon us.
Of all the things I am fearful of most, this one is at the top of the list. The longer life goes on, the more successful I become, the more people I (try to) reach with Jesus’ love: the bigger the stakes. The more pain that would be unleashed if the monster lurking in my secret chamber ever got loose.
Andy Stanley talks a lot about this in some of his leadership talks, warning young leaders that their natural leadership abilities, skills and opportunities will eventually propel them past what their character can sustain. You can be so successful so quickly, that when a million people are whispering in your ear to do what’s wrong to sustain the success, you will not have the depth of character to resist. (this is part of the reason I think moving too fast is a big mistake)
The other side of the coin is that without developing your character first, when you’re successful, you will be tempted to keep the monster secret for fear of destroying all the success you’ve built. All the while it is growing, consuming every part of your life.
The older I get, the more I realize how scary this is. Without slaying the monster, eventually it will rear its ugly head, destroying everything I spent a lifetime creating. The worst part is not the idea that what I built will be destroyed, or what will happen to me. But the worst part is how it will be used as just another example of another hypocritical Christian. Another guy that couldn’t live up to the hype. Another example the enemy will use to discredit the Gospel, to discredit Jesus.
And that’s not even the absolute worst part. The worst part is that the enemy will use it to drive a wedge between the people I care most about and Jesus. The people I care most about, the ones I most invested in, the ones I most want to see Jesus’ life in, will be the ones most affected by my sin. By the monster that lurks in my secret chamber.
Even picturing that very idea brings tears to my eyes. Thinking what I could destroy through years of apathy, years of excuses, years of feeding the monster instead of slaying it.
“Sin may be private, but it’s never personal” as Rick Warren says. That’s powerful. It’s scary.
The point I want to make in this blog post is not about how to slay the monster. That’s much more painful and I’ll save it for another post. All I want to do is to convince you that there is a connection between what happens in the secret chambers of your heart, and what happens in your public life.
I don’t care if you’re a CEO, a pastor, a father, a leader, or you think you’re a nobody. What happens now in the secret parts of your heart will eventually come out in the “public” parts of your life. Whether it is with the overall “public”, or with your spouse, kids, employees, family, cousins, employers, friends … whatever that looks like.
One thing we all have in common is that we have buts, and other people’s buts always look bigger than ours. Let’s go over some common “buts” to what I’m sin.
“But it’s not a big deal.” “I only look at those pictures a few times a month.” “I would never act on those thoughts.” “It’s a little harmless fun, why are you so uptight?” “It’s ok if I never do anything about it.”
Maybe you’re right. Maybe it isn’t a “big” issue now. But every time you steal another glance, entertain another thought or push another envelope, you’re feeding the monster. What happens when you feed something? That’s right, it grows. It grows bigger, and so does its appetite.
This is why it’s so important to slay the monster when you’re young. Don’t feed the monster, STARVE THE MONSTER. Don’t look, don’t glance, don’t even think about glancing.
Otherwise, in twenty years of gradual but regular feedings that maybe started at a couple of times a year, and grew to once a month, then once a day, then several times a day, you’re going to wonder how the monster ever got so large and so destructive.
“But they will never know.” This is the most dangerous but, because secrets only have power when they are secret. Once you expose a secret to light and face the consequences, it will no longer have any power over you. You can be free!
But let us assume you can keep your secret a secret forever. Maybe when the monster is only a few inches tall, keeping it a secret is not that difficult. But, kind of like the folks that illegally buy baby alligators when they’re a couple inches long, eventually the monster will grow up. You can keep a 6in gator secret pretty easily, but what’s your brilliant plan when it’s 6 FEET long?
Your secret is going to grow. And it will be eventually found out. You can’t avoid the pain of what happens when it is revealed, but you can choose the timing. Time the reveal as soon as possible so the monster is as small as possible.
“But it’s not even a sin, technically. And nobody is going to get hurt.” Maybe. But Jesus understood something very important about the heart: it is the guide post of life. What your heart believes is the only truth that matters. This is why Proverbs talks about the heart being the “wellspring of life”. Everything we do in life comes through the heart.
This is why Jesus expanded the definition of adultery to be not just the physical act, but the very act of lust that only happens in your head. It’s not hurting anybody—except yourself. You’re poisoning the very water that your entire life feeds off of.
“But it won’t really affect me.” It’s a mistake to think that what happens in the secret chambers of your heart won’t have a profound effect on what happens in the rest of your life. It will alter your worldview, alter your schedule, alter your preferences, alter who you are. As Ashley Null put it: “What the heart loves, the will chooses, and the mind justifies”.
Ultimately, it’s your choice. Your character is the most important quality of your existence. Without it, everything you spend your life building will be washed away, destroyed by a Godzilla-sized monster that has been living in your heart. It will destroy everything around you and all that love you.
Vow to slay the monster today. It will never be any smaller than it is right now. Get help, find someone you can trust and talk to so you can expose the monster to light. Do whatever it takes. Because it’s going to be either you or him, and if you wait, I don’t like your odds.
The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it? -Jeremiah 17:9