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At my bed and breakfast, the Blue Belle Inn B&B and Tea House, each of our guest rooms is named after a children’s storybook. In the main house, we have On the Banks of Plum Creek, one of the Laura Ingalls Wilder “Little House” series, NeverNeverland from Peter Pan, Sherwood Forest from Robin Hood, Sleeping Beauty, Secret Garden, and Heaven to Betsy, from Maud Hart Lovelace’s Betsy Tacy series.
We call the circa 1951 cottage where my husband and I live A Wrinkle in Time, after Madeleine L’Engle’s classic, because it is sandwiched between a Victorian house (The Blue Belle Inn), built in 1895, and a giant arts and crafts built in the 1920s. Four years ago, when we bought and renovated a new little house just to the north of the Blue Belle, we christened it Anne’s House of Dreams, from the Anne of Green Gables series. Upstairs is Green Gables and downstairs is Four Winds.
The theme of each room is loosely in keeping with the theme of the book it is named after, with a lot of whimsy thrown in for good measure.
In the case of Four Winds, part of that theme is a staircase that quotes John 8:32 – The truth shall set you free, with one word painted on each step as you climb upward.
If you’ve read Anne’s House of Dreams, you know that there are several characters in the book who are keeping secrets. The offending characters think they have very good reasons for keeping their secrets to themselves and hiding the truth, but in the end, we learn that as long as duplicity is present, there can be no resolution, no contentment, no fulfillment, and no happy ending.
The truth shall set you free. Falsehoods, no matter how nobly intended, create a prison that binds you.
In my new book, Merry Go Round, slated for a late April release, the characters have a few secrets of their own. Trevor has kept the fact that he is gay a secret for almost 20 years. His duplicity and belated honesty have impacted his wife’s life in many ways. And because Tracy is determined that no one else learn the truth (especially not her children), she is left without a way to process the ramifications of those events. Because she’s chosen not to reveal Trevor’s sexual orientation, she’s cheated herself out of the listening ears and supportive arms she would otherwise have had.
Like a bottle of a champagne with a firmly plugged top, the pressure is mounting on the inside, and you know that eventually, someone is going to come uncorked. Things are going to blow up in your face.
But as much as we may believe in our heads that “The truth shall set you free”, many of us grew up in stoical northern European homes where we were taught to keep our thoughts to ourselves, and hide our true feelings lest we offend or make everyone uncomfortable.
In her song, Don’t Cry Out Loud, Rita Coolidge sings:
Don’t cry out loud
Just keep it inside, learn how to hide your feelings
Fly high and proud
And if you should fall, remember you almost had it all.
If the truth intrigues you – the wisdom of sometimes withholding it, and sometimes, conversely, letting it all hang out – I encourage you to read Merry Go Round when it comes out later this spring. It’s easy to think that we should always tell the truth – until you know what’s at stake. Only then can you know what you would do. Are some secrets worth keeping? If so, to what lengths would you go to camouflage the real story? Or is honesty always the best policy?
“I can’t keep living a lie.” Trevor’s voice sounded far away and tinny, maybe because her cell phone was the cheapest model on the market, and maybe because he was calling from California. Regardless, it didn’t dampen the impact of his words.
It had been almost three years since Trevor had told her the truth, and she still had a hard time believing it.
“I can’t keep pretending I’m someone who I’m not,” Trevor said.
“You most certainly can. You have to.” She lowered her voice for fear of waking the children. “If you can’t do it for me, then do it for them.”
from Merry Go Round, by Sherrie Hansen