“Mama, hide with me!”
Hiding is one of my son’s favorite games. He will grab whatever blanket is nearby and with some help, create a cave for himself beneath it. I love being nestled under there with him, sneaking in some snuggle time, although I remain on guard for those wiggle fests of excitement—I could have sworn my nose has been broken more than once.
My husband mostly stays in place, taking a few steps in varying directions, while calling out all the great hiding spots where he is “looking.”
“Is Blaise in the closet?”
“No!” My son responds.
“Is Blaise under the sofa?”
“I not under the sofa.”
My son is very helpful to his papa.
And so the game continues, until Michael decides he needs a rest from all of his looking and cozies up with the blanket, resting his arm on a giggling toddler. And we repeat, as it commonly goes with a 2-year-old.
Unlike my son, hiding is not one of my favorite games. Playing this version with him is a joy, of course, but hiding is something I have done far too much of over the years. I have become an expert hider. Well, physically, I am probably at the same level as a toddler, but when it comes to keeping secrets, I promise you could not find the real me if I didn’t want you to.
I’m an expert because I have spent all of my life hiding. I was raised with lessons in this skill—to attend public school, engage in relationships, take jobs—all without exposing the truth of my family’s lifestyle and belief system. I was raised to think I was protecting them by keeping their secrets—our secrets—even after my parents had both died. And if the burden killed me from the inside out? Then that was the sacrifice required, or so it seemed. Whatever loss would be worth keeping my family safe from a world that would not understand our religion.
From all of this time spent dodging and covering the truth, I have learned that hiding fosters emotions of two kinds: either the arrogant kind (“I know more than you and you don’t even know it”), or, the fearful kind (“I can’t let a hint slide out by accident, or a glimpse of who I truly am may show”). Neither showcase the humility and courage modeled by Jesus Christ, and therefore, neither actually serve me. Neither are good places to remain for a lifetime.
So far, I have spent my years being controlled by the latter: the emotion of fear. Afraid to be seen, to be known, to be judged, to be cut off, to be called a betrayer or worse. These secrets have worn on my mind, body, and soul, creating persistent fatigue. Still, I would continue to choose to keep my secrets, if I did not sense a purpose bigger than myself: the potential that someone else has been hiding, too. Hiding something they believe defines them. Something that may unearth them, shattering the world they have so carefully and painstakingly crafted. A world that seems safe, but in actuality, is a facade because internally, they never really feel at rest.
Hiding masks as safety, but beneath the surface, is oftentimes the suffocation of personhood.
Hiding is not the only option, though. I don’t have to operate from this place anymore, and neither does anyone else.
With this, I wonder:
Are you hiding?
Are you hiding a secret you’ve been carrying because you’re scared?
Are you hiding a secret you’ve been carrying because you’re scared by the response you’ll get in return?
Is this secret-hiding serving you?
Or is it suffocating you?