Keeping our Secrets, or Keeping the Light?
My wife recently presented me with a DVD of a film that she thought I’d like because, as she said, “it looks like the sort of film in which nothing really happens.” The Light Between Oceans stars Michael Fassbender (Tom) and Alicia Vikander (Isobel), and has recently been broadcast on BBC, so you may be able to find it on iPlayer. We watched it together and I did enjoy it immensely, despite the fact that, actually, plenty of things happened in it. It was subtly paced, beautifully shot and impressively acted, but maybe ‘enjoy’ is not the right word. By the end of it we were both emotionally deeply stirred, to say the least. If you do watch it, keep the box of tissues handy, and, guys, get an excuse prepared for why you seem to have something in your eye.
It’s the story of Tom, who, recovering from his traumatic experience of the First World War, takes the post of lighthouse keeper on a remote island. He is resigned to a solitary existence, but instead he meets and falls in love with a young woman in the nearest mainland town. They marry and set up home at the lighthouse. All seems idyllic- but then, that wouldn’t’ make much of a story, would it? Isobel experiences two traumatic late miscarriages and sadness threatens to engulf them. Then, following a storm, a boat containing one dead man and one live baby girl, is washed up on their island. To Isobel it seems obvious that they should just keep the baby. Tom knows that as lighthouse keeper it is his duty to log all that happens, and to report this to the authorities. But his wife is so desperate; the child would probably end up in an orphanage, and so why don’t they just keep her, without telling anyone? Reluctantly Tom goes along with her (again, It wouldn’t be much of a story otherwise, would it?) But as subsequent events unfold, he has to tussle with the knowledge that he hasn’t carried out his duty as the lighthouse keeper, and inevitably, the secret catches up with them.
That’s the thing about secrets- they always do. Or as Jesus put it, “There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known.” As Christians, we are keepers of the Light- followers of Jesus Christ, the Light of the World. However, the reality is that often we harbour our own dark secrets. Because of shame, or maybe just a lack of real repentance, we keep things hidden. Then we find that our lives give the lie to our calling, we find ourselves robbed of our joy in the Lord, and our lives become one huge effort to maintain a façade. When we keep sin hidden then we allow it to develop a power over us. It is by bringing it into the light that the power is broken. In another memorable movie, The Firm, it is only as lawyer Tom Cruise confesses his one-night fling to his wife that the power the organisation has over him is broken, and he can be delivered.
In the gruelling documentary charting the allegations of Michael Safechuck and Wade Robson against Michael Jackson, Leaving Neverland, Robson comments:
“Secrets will eat you up. It sucks life out of you. Just deteriorates you from the inside, like a part of you is dead.”
As you read this, maybe you are aware of secrets in your own life that dim the light inside you. You feel ashamed, guilty. Maybe from time to time, you bring it to the Lord to ask for forgiveness, but that secret desire, habit or practice has such a power over you that it just draws you back to it. There is one way to break its power, and that is to get it out into the open. It won’t be easy, it will be painful, it doesn’t mean there won’t be consequences. But let the light shine. Share with someone you trust. If it is a secret that hurts someone close to you, then you’ll need to confess to that person. Another strong theme in The Light between Oceans is the power of forgiveness. To be on the receiving end of forgiveness is both humbling and liberating. It is this reality that enables us to be true keepers of the light rather than prisoners of our own dark secrets.
“This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins, and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:5-9)