” ‘My’ Secret Exposed”
Rev. Tasha Blackburn
February 9, 2020
Whenever I do premarital counseling we invariably come to the “good news/bad news” part about marriage. This is how I break it to them. I say, “One of the best parts about marriage is that you have someone who loves you who—when you need it—is able to hold up a mirror in front of you to show you who you really are.” Then I say, “One of the worst parts about marriage is that you have someone you love holding up a mirror in front of you showing you who you really are.” It’s the best and it’s the worst.
Now, of course, this role can be filled for us by other family members and in very close friendships but marriage is where it comes up in counseling. No matter who you present to the world, no matter who you present to those closest to you, eventually the edges will slip and your secrets will be exposed. You will get nothing past those who know you best. We all have these parts of ourselves we are not proud of. We all have pieces of our personality that we would like to limit.
With love, we can be given the gift of seeing those reflected back to us. With love, we can be asked to be honest about who we are—not on the outside but on the inside. But it is terribly difficult to bear: to see ourselves so fully and in such relief. Even when it is done with love we feel exposed.
Over the centuries there has been much ink spilled on the farmer in Jesus’ parable today. Many have tried to peel back the layers of his history and motivations. Some say that he must be a bad person who only got rich because he exploited others. Some say he has misused the earth to get such a crop and so he is not a good steward. Others say he’s stolen the leftovers that should have remained in the field for the gleaners to gather. But we don’t read any of that information here. We don’t read anything about him hurting people or the earth. He is not exposed for being unjust. In fact, it appears he is a careful guy who spends conservatively and plans well. But if he is not a bad person, what is he? Jesus tells us that the farmer is a fool.
We all know what a fool is: someone who is a bit dumb, a slow-learner whose dimwittedness is pretty embarrassing. That’s close to what a fool was in Jesus’ time as well. Not much has changed. And a mirror could be held before us, reflecting back our foolishness—our dimwittedness—most any day of the week!
But the farmer is a very particular sort of fool. A part of what a fool once was has been lost to us today for a fool was not just a dim person. A fool was someone who disregarded God. “A fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’” so the psalm goes. An atheist would say it out loud but a fool would never say there is no God, a fool would just live as if there is no God.
And this farmer is just such a person. He is a fool because he has disregarded God. We know this intimately because Jesus lets us into the farmer’s inner thoughts in what is fancily called a “soliloquy”. A soliloquy is when someone thinks their thoughts aloud when they are by themselves. And this farmer’s soliloquy is his mirror that has been held up in front of him to face. For perhaps the world knew him as a considerate man. Perhaps they even knew him as a godly man.
But his thoughts expose his secret. He is a “me, my, I, and mine” man. In 3 short verses, less than a handful of sentences, the man refers to himself 15 times. 15 instances of “my crops,” and “my barns,” and “I will say to my soul”. No matter who he shows to the world, he’s let his edges slip and we can clearly see that he only thinks of himself. He is in charge of every aspect of his life. He is the creator of his own success. He is the master of his domain. And with his secret exposed, we come to know that he really is a bit dumb or at least a slow-learner. And he certainly disregards God. He is a fool.
How many “mes, mys, and mines” would be spoken in your soliloquy? What would the mirror held in front of you expose? We are spending the next few weeks on the topic of money but, just like many big life topics, conversations about money are not really about money. Just like fights about the color of the carpet are rarely really about the color of the carpet.
The topic of money masks the real problem here. The man is not a fool for doing well financially. He is probably not even faulted for making a financial plan. He is faulted for assuming HE is the only thing that matters. He is faulted for assuming God has nothing to do with his practical life. He is basically a functional atheist because—in his heart, in his everyday dealings, in his own thoughts—God is completely missing. It is my barns and my life and my soul.
What a thing to see reflected back to us. But how much of the “my” secret is in each of us? Money is a very practical part of our lives and so how we handle it can be a marker of whether or not we allow God into our practical day to day. The same could be said of how we handle our career path or our family plan or our retirement plan. These are everyday matters so whenever we forget everyone else, our secret “me, my, mine” is waiting to be reflected back to us. Whenever we say out loud that we love God but, in our private actions, leave God out completely, our secret “me, my, mine” is waiting to be held there in front of us. How much of a “my” secret lies in each of us? I would guess quite a bit. And we’d be fools not to pay attention.
Many of us may have been listening this morning—some of us with spouses and some of us without—and thinking, well, I don’t have a person in my life who can do this for me. I don’t have a mirror holder—maybe because there is no one I trust that deeply or maybe because I won’t let anyone show my reflection to me. Whatever the reason, lots of us don’t have a mirror holder.
Except you do.
One of the trickiest names we have for Jesus, one of the strangest and perhaps least PC to fathom—is that he is the groom. Yet that is what he is called. John the Baptist calls Jesus this when he says, “I am just the friend of the groom and the friend must rejoice when the groom arrives. He must increase and I must decrease.” Jesus himself says that he is the groom and that he and his disciples should be celebrators like at a wedding. Jesus is a groom for us, and I know how strange and even uncomfortable that may seem but think about it in connection with the mirror.
Jesus comes to you as The Spouse (capital T, capital S). He holds the mirror before you, even when it is hard, even when it exposes so much. And he does it with love. He holds it there because he loves you. There are many foolish things we could see in our mirrors but the most foolish of all is if we have disregarded God in our everyday lives. “Take care,” Jesus says before he gives the parable. “Take care; watch out” he says as he lifts the mirror. Please don’t be a fool.
Paul sees this mirror holding not as simple admonishment or as being taken to task. He sees it as a foretaste of the promise of heaven. “For now we see in a mirror dimly,” he writes to the Corinth church. “then we will see face to face…Then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.” Part of that gift of heaven is offered to us even now. He is the groom holding the mirror before you. And you are fully known—no place to hide, your secret is exposed—that is the worst. And you are fully known—completely and totally understood and yet still loved—and that is the very best. Amen.