Submitted by Visitor (not verified) on Mon, 07/12/2009 – 12:55
Bible Book: Genesis
Verse: 1 – 34
Text: Genesis 42-44
While reading this part of the story of Joseph, I was struck by the time Joseph spent hiding his identity from his brothers. He was second in command to the king, but keeping the secret of who he really was from his brothers, must have been unbearable. This made me wonder how people who live with HIV feel about carrying this reality around in secret. I put the question to someone I am privileged enough to know, and was grateful that he answered me and allowed me to share this with you. Statistics say that there probably will be people present in your congregation on Sunday who could give a similar answer …
“Living with my secret …
“I have been living a double life for so many years, that I sometimes wonder whether anybody really knows me. Still, it’s only thirteen years since I had myself tested for the HI virus. Thirteen years since that day that I understood the look in the doctor’s eyes even before he tried to assure me that it was not a death sentence. Since the time I had to inform my most immediate family members. It wasn’t easy to be honest. Even now I am still ashamed of it. For everyone who heard the news, knew what I had done where they hadn’t been able to see me.
“Between then and now lie years of remorse. Many wasted years of depression and suicide attempts. Years of struggling to accept myself. Years of rejecting myself. Years of struggling to make peace with what this thing – and I to myself in the process – has done to me: deep inside where no-one can see, and yes, even to the part of me that you can see. Years that took their toll of broken interpersonal relationships.
“What is it doing to me? What is it doing to my loved ones?
“To be able to talk about it, is indescribably liberating. Not only for myself. For those who are carrying this load with me. To have to keep silent about it, is hard. I am looking for a word to describe the feeling. A word that will explain what it feels like to not being able to share your emotions. A word that will explain how it feels not to be able to tell the truth – lying about my illnesses, the side-effects of the antiretroviral medication, my handfuls of pills, my upset stomach, my weight loss, my growing older so fast, my grey hair. A word to describe the infinite loneliness. A word – sometimes – for my anger. Like when I sit in company and have to listen to how easily people like me are condemned – almost without exception by churchgoers(?) – without any understanding. The same people who listen with quiet gratification to the minister reminding them from the pulpit of how the punishment for their sins are wiped out in Jesus Christ.
“For living with my secret is also weakening the church. It deprives believers of the opportunity to hear from my mouth about the Lord’s immeasurable mercy in my life. Of how He has travelled before me for the past thirteen years, of how He has levelled the road for me. Supported me on the uphill stretches. Of how the Lord provides. Of how we can really trust Him with our lives, our all.
“It’s hard to live with the secret. There is no word to describe it. Describe the people who are affected by my virus. Like me, they don’t find it easy to forget about this thing. And to whom do you talk about it? It even costs you your friends…
“My wife can’t share it with her friends. My mother can’t share it with her best friend, or her Bible study friends. My children can’t discuss it with their friends. So, they miss out on any possible comfort by people who care. So, they forfeit the full warmth of fellowship. So, their lives become part of this dark secret. So, they blame me… So, they are caught up between their caring for me and their anger against me. So, precious opportunities are lost.
“How I would love it if the minister could pray for me, for us, from the pulpit on a Sunday, like he prays by name for other people who are sick. I would love it if someone would be concerned about our needs too. Would just shake your hand sometimes.
“But they don’t know. They may not know.
“For when they know, they would probably react like the friend to whom I told my news two months ago. I haven’t heard from him again. And now I’m just too afraid to make contact from my side. I don’t want to hear it spelt out. I don’t want to know that he’s not prepared to help me carry this load. I don’t want to know that he doesn’t want to be associated with me any more. I’m afraid that his silence spells … rejection.
“I live with my secret. We live with our secret.
“Now that you know: Do you mind about our secret? Are you prepared to work on a fellowship where we could risk sharing, without the fear of judgement and rejection, our hurt with the rest of the Lord’s children? This would more than halve the load … This would mean that we are sharing each other’s load. When you eventually realise: my secret also affects you.”