WE TEND TO THINK RIGHT AWAY of dark secrets—things we did or failed to do that we have never managed to forgive ourselves for; fierce hungers that we have difficulty admitting even to ourselves; things that happened to us long ago too painful to speak of; doubts about our own worth as human beings, doubts about the people closest to us, about God if we believe in God; and fear—the fear of death, the fear of life.

But there are also happy secrets, the secrets we keep like treasure less because we don't want to share them with the world for fear of somehow tarnishing them than because they are so precious we have no way of sharing them adequately. The love we feel for certain people, some of them people we scarcely know, some of them people who do not suspect our love and wouldn't know how to respond to it if they did. The way our hearts leap at certain things that the chances are wouldn't make anybody else so much as turn a hair—the sound of a particular voice on the telephone, a dogeared book we read as children, the first snow, the sight of an old man smoking his pipe on the porch as we drive by.

We are our secrets. They are the essence of what makes us ourselves. They are the rich loam out of which, for better or worse, grow the selves by which the world knows us. If we are ever to be free and whole, we must be free from their darkness and have their spell over us broken. If we are ever to see each other as we fully are, we must see by their light.

"Search me, O God, and know my heart!" cries out the great Psalm 139, which is all about the hiding and baring of secrets. "Try me and know my thoughts... for darkness is as light to thee." Even our darkness.

It is the secret prayer of us all.

-Originally published in Wishful Thinking and later in Beyond Words 

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