The endless news of Hillary Clinton’s secret server reminds me of the portable tape recorder I got for Christmas when I was twelve. I have no rational explanation for what possessed the adults in my family to give such a thing, but alcohol could have been a factor. Whatever their rationale might have been, I became a veritable plague for months afterward. No one was safe. I recorded any conversation I could manage to get close to without being seen—even outside the bathroom door if someone happened to be singing in the shower. I eventually discovered that whatever gems of humor might be latent in the humiliation of others wasn’t worth the life of physical disability promised by my older siblings. There were at least three enduring take-away lessons for me. 1) People don’t like it when you sneak and observe them. 2) They especially don’t like it when you record them when they think no one’s looking. 3) People who used to like you can develop homicidal tendencies when you play those recordings in the presence of others, even if the others are laughing so hard that beverages accidentally spew out of their noses.
I’m not twelve anymore, and while a bulky portable tape recorder would be a laughable antique in our current techy world, the attitudes of folks on the receiving end of unwanted, covert observation hasn’t changed much. Thus, there are some who declare that they are going to trying to live ‘off the grid’. They want to avoid leaving an electronic trail behind them that could be followed to their bank account, their e-mail account, their favorite shopping places, or their home address. They don’t care whether the trackers are marketers, pollsters, curiosity seekers, betrayed ex-lovers, or criminals with evil intent; they don’t want to be exposed to any of them. But in spite of their desire for anonymity, they’re finding that in this culture of electronic surveillance, maintaining our day-to-day routines while holding onto any semblance of personal privacy is borderline impossible. The war against the ever-expanding array of intrusive devices peering into our private lives is looming more and more as an unwinnable one. The covert digital insurgency lurking in every one of our innocent looking little electronic gadgets has been the source of lethal attacks against careers, relationships, business operations, campaigns, agencies, projects, and ministries. Under the pretext of confidence or privacy, unguarded comments are made, and words are written in haste. Things are said and done in the heat of a moment, or while caught up in the temporary insanity of unbridled passion that ultimately become the undoing of whomever said, wrote, or did them. It’s scary enough to be placed in a situation where someone is watching almost everything we do, but it’s arguably even more challenging when we don’t know whether they’re watching or not, but fear that they could be. Such is life in America these days.
We wrythe around in a kind of paradoxical internal dance. We crave being heard, seen, recognized, and acknowledged on the one hand, but we fear that same observation, recognition, and acknowledgment if we can’t control it. We delight in our fantasies of being the one in the center stage spotlight, and we tremble at the nightmare where our illusion of privacy is ripped away in the midst of a public disclosure of our secrets.
Then, on top of it all, we find ourselves confronted by a God who declares that He has us under constant surveillance, and more than that, He’s recording it! That’s disconcerting to a people given to chasing a mythological state of being where we’re in total control of ourselves and our surroundings. It’s easy to get intoxicated with the sense of self-assurance and freedom that comes along with that illusion, but just as intense is the paranoia that grips us when we discover that we’ve lost it. We feel betrayed, powerless, and exposed. Anger and fear well up in us, as though some con artist sneaked off into the night with the very treasure that we had trusted him to protect for us.
God makes it clear that we can’t have it both ways. We can’t be on center stage with Him when we want to, and hidden from Him when we don’t want to be seen. The writer of Hebrews expresses it most concisely when he said,
“And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give an account” (Heb. 4:13 NKJV).
God misses nothing. But if being watched incites such negative responses from us, then why is God doing it? Shouldn’t we have freedom? Isn’t privacy be some kind of ‘right’ that we can claim, even from Him – and what, exactly, is it that we find so appealing about secrecy anyway?
Let’s be honest. We covet our hidden chambers because of the delusion that they can somehow provide an escape from accountability and allow us to indulge in sin without consequences. Secrecy and the darkness that comes with it promises freedom but can never deliver it. Secrecy demands lies, and the lies lead to bondage. Innumerable souls have followed those lies into the most destructive episodes of their lives. God wants to protect us from secrecy’s destructive illusions. Granted, total exposure can be an emotionally paralyzing thought for sinful, self-seeking people like us, but consider this … Isn’t unrestricted exposure without rejection and condemnation a core attraction in the kind of love relationships we crave, and isn’t that the very thing He created us for? Isn’t the kind of love that secrets can’t destroy what He offers?
Jesus opened Himself to full exposure to all who would believe in Him, and He emptied all our closets on the cross. He bared all our secrets, absorbed all our shameful words and deeds, and accepted as His own every consequence we deserve. His sacrifice took care of the impact of our secrets, and our faith in Him deletes the recording of all we tried to hide. His eyes behold us now with the heart of a Father who loves His children more than they know. So, scrap your secret servers. He’s already seen it all anyway.
© 2015 Gallagher’s Pen, Ronald L. Gallagher, Ed.S. All rights reserved.
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