As I continue to think about closetedness and its implications, I have been pondering secrets. It's easy for me to focus almost exclusively on this idea that I have a "secret" I am keeping from my congregation, that if they knew how I spent much of my weekend, for example, they would be appalled. (Let's face it: some would be titillated. In their way, they are as much a concern to me as those who would be appalled.) Some, I must add, would not be appalled... they might be a little discomfited, perhaps, that I had been keeping this aspect of my life from them. And they might feel an uneasiness for a while, wondering whether or not I was trustworthy. But I believe they would eventually be fine. This is true of some as yet undetermined percentage of my congregation. They would feel a little strange, and then get over it.
But is this strictly true? Have I been keeping a secret? Or have I simply had a part of my life I around which I have maintained some privacy? One reasonable question to ask would be: would the appalled people be equally appalled if they found I'd spent my nights in the arms of a man this weekend? Or would they find a way to place this in the realm of a measure of privacy to which I was entitled?
And now the other side of secrets. During the course of my work as a pastor, people tell me their secrets all the time. (They also tell me things that aren't secrets, such as the fact that they live with their opposite sex partner... that information is rarely deemed worthy of being kept a secret anymore). People entrust to me details about themselves and their families they would never (or almost never) share with anyone, things they would strongly prefer not get around the congregation. They assume I will keep their secrets for them. And of course, I will.
I do not take this lightly. It is a tremendous privilege to be invited into the realms of private pain most of us live with to some degree or another. I treasure the secrets my congregants entrust into my care; they are precious. I wonder if they could entertain the notion that I, too, might have such treasures, and that only those who are invited in have a "right" to be there.
And... why not be entirely honest. There is a kind of joy and pleasure in having this particular secret as well. I love escaping to Beloved's. It's a kind of private island there, as if we're in another world. That is also my experience when we travel together. And our time goes so fast... on our island we can savor it. I love our beautiful secret.
But it might be nice if all the world were our private island as well. Even my congregation.