The Balance Between Retreat and Revelation

Jul 3, 2012

Not all stories are meant for public display.

Two stories sit side by side in Luke 8, similar in circumstance, but different in response:

  1. A demon-possessed man, living as though dead in tombs, freed of his torture and restored to sanity. “Return home and tell how much God has done for you,” Jesus said. (Luke 8:39)
  2. A church leader and father, grieving his dead daughter. Jesus shows up, brings the dead girl back to life. But then surprises all by ordering them “not to tell anyone what had happened.” (Luke 8:56)

Both received a miracle. Both experienced Jesus’ ability to redeem the lost and resurrect the dead. One is told to share it, the other ordered to contain it. Seventeen verses apart.

I don’t understand this, can’t fathom Jesus’ reasons for responding so differently to similar stories. Even so, there’s one clear truth I can’t avoid:

Some stories are meant to be shared, while others are meant to be savored.

I feel this tension. I love creating new stories and remembering old ones, perfecting both through craft and revision. When my own emotions are touched by what I’ve created, I long to share it. I hope the guts of my story can help someone else feel less alone in theirs. This knowledge compels me forward.

But sometimes I hesitate, want to hold back. The details of my life feel personal, and to reveal it leaves me exposed and vulnerable. Sometimes I’d rather keep it close to my chest, savor it, protect it from the critique of those who read or watch.

There is a fine dance between retreat and revelation. Sometimes we need to push ourselves forward, through the fear of exposure and into authentic display. Other times we need to hold back, give ourselves time to savor and ponder, save revelation for another day—or, perhaps, never.

I don’t always know when to reveal and when to retreat, but here are a few considerations when deciding whether or not a story is ready to be shared:

Timing. As a general rule, the more current a story, the more effective it is. But sometimes a current story is a volatile one. Intense emotion can be reckless, dangerous if not handled gently. I’ve birthed some of my best blog posts and articles in the heat of emotion. The Truth About Doubt is one. When God Asks the Impossible is another. But posts written in extreme emotion usually need to sit for a day or two until perspective gets the upper hand. Unsure? Invite a fresh pair of eyes to read, just to be sure.

Permission. When my story involves another, it’s essential to ask permission first. Much of what I write and speak about involves my family. For the most part, they’ve given me absolute permission to use our experiences to encourage others. Still, fragile parts remain. For now I’m choosing to hold those close, protect the integrity of those I love with a promise of privacy. My story is mine to tell, but theirs is theirs.

Motivation: Motivation often determines outcome. Why do I want to share this? What is the value to the reader, listener? Is my goal to elevate myself and feel important, or to connect with someone else, make a difference? If I’m driven by venting, vanity or retaliation, better to unleash it on a journal and not the public.

When it comes to your story, do you feel pulled between retreat and revelation? How do you determine when to share and when to savor?


  1. Ken Shaddox

    Thanks for your blog. You have good content and it helps me along with many others to think in fresh ways. Keep up the good post. Blessings to you and your family.

    • Michele

      Thank you, Ken! I appreciate your encouragement. Today was one of those days I didn’t feel like a very good writer. Your comment came at just the right time. 🙂 Have a wonderful holiday with your family!

  2. Tracee Persiko

    I love this post!! So many great lines and thoughts in there! We all need to spend some time marinating on our own hearts stuff. We need to think through the why’s and how’s of what we are saying. There is such a weight in words. How we carry that weight of influence matters.

    LOVE this line, “When my own emotions are touched by what I’ve created, I long to share it.” These are words for my heart as well.

    • Michele

      This post was birthed from too many of my mistakes! Too often I’ve posted without adequate marination. You’re right…there is such weight in words. Thank you for using YOURS so well. Grateful for you.

  3. Jenny

    This was a great post–it really resonated with me! I am often a “retreater”, and loved the part where you talked about how sometimes we need to push ourselves forward through the fear of exposure and into authentic display. I’ve never consciously thought about the idea of retreat vs. reveal. Thanks for giving me something to keep thinking about!

    • Michele

      You pushed through with great courage in your recent post, “Me, FD and the Big C.” It’s a brave thing, exposing our most difficult struggles and fears. Good for you, Jenny!

  4. Ben


    This is an amazing post. It spoke right to me. I have learned to trust the Holy Spirit for guidance in these matters – but only after years of confusion and questionable motives.


    • Michele

      Thanks, Ben. Glad to hear it.

  5. Sarah Beckman

    I remember us talking about this very subject, and glad to see it in print now! I have been recently thinking I have so much to share, but yet, I know so much of it was a holy private thing…so I will continue to marinate – use that private journal and hope that God reveals what, if anything he can use for the benefit of others. I really resounded also with your recent newsletter and the comments about grieving being a holy space – just having lived that for 2 weeks – it was affirming to me to hear that what I just went through was a blessing and honor.
    keep up the amazing writing you are a gift – and i can’t wait to come to CO to see you…


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