So much meaning hinges on such little words. The Christian life is a beautiful co-mingling of the personal, the corporate, and the Divine. Humans were created for a relationship with God and that yearning is within each human heart, underneath all the noise and striving and busyness. Humans were also created for community. The “ours” of the Christian life is significant, especially in the current context in America which is rife with individualism.
And yet there must be space for a healthy “mine.” Psalm 18 records David experience of what I call a secret season with the Lord. If you read the Psalm with an eye towards pronouns, you see predominately “I, my, & mine.” The opening lines alone contain eight references to self.
“I love you, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge.”
Is David an individualistic fella? Does He care only for the private faith? I think not. A cursory glance over other Psalms he himself penned shows a strong shared love for God and His people. Just a page turn later, in Psalm 20, David devotes an entire song to a collective “you, your, & our.”
“May the Lord answer you in the day of trouble…May he grant you your heart’s desire and fulfill all your counsel! We will sing for joy over your victory, and in the name of our God we will set up our banners.” Psalm 20:1, 4-5
The reality is that there are secret seasons that we each walk through, seasons that are as different as the people who walk through them. After a season of strong collective faith in college, the Lord prepared for me a secret season after graduation. I wasn’t expecting it, nor did I appreciate it at the time. It was painful and lonely even though I was engaged in healthy community at the time. God was doing a secret work in me that I didn’t have words for then and still don’t now.
There were battles deep within my heart, deep-seated lies and fears that He was dealing with and causing me to deal with at that time. Though I was surrounded by the body of Christ, I couldn’t find anyone who could fully relate to where I was. And I am glad I couldn’t. I still cherish that year with the Lord, a very “I, my, & mine” season in my walk with Him. No one else could fight those battles and learn those truths for me. The loneliness actually produced a profound intimacy with the Lord that I still draw from to this current day.
J. Oswald Sanders writes profoundly of dark seasons, trying seasons particular to each of us. “All servants and handmaidens of the Lord have to partake in this discipline of darkness, to have the ear trained to listen to the Master’s words… So spiritually it is not the days of sunshine and splendor and liberty and light that leave their lasting and indelible effect upon the soul but those nights of the spirit in which, shadowed by God’s hand, hidden in the dark cleft of some rock in a weary land, He lets the splendors of the outskirts of Himself pass before our gaze.”
During that year, I memorized portions of Psalm 18, as it encapsulated my experience better than I could. The truths David learned in his secret season were a significant source of comfort to me.
“For You light my lamp; the Lord my God illumines my darkness…For who is God but the Lord, and who is a rock except our God? The God who girds me with strength and makes my way blameless? He makes my feet like hinds’ feet, and sets me upon my high places.” Psalm 18:28, 31-33.
In the midst of a collective faith and in the presence of a shared Father, there must be space for secret seasons. God as Father girds each of us with strength for our unique battles, our distinct uphill climbs on steep precipices. He promises to give each nimble, sturdy feet like those of a deer that are able to cling to particularly craggy parts of earth in sturdiness. “He makes me to walk upon my high places.”
We share the same source of strength and hope and truth. But my high places are not your high places are not their high places.
We can stand upon our high places and share what we learned getting there, the results of our secret seasons with the Lord. We can watch others and encourage them in the midst of their uphill climbs. But we must give them space to hear from the Lord, that they might write their own Psalm 18’s, their own accounts of God’s particular, unique faithfulnesses to them. We must allow God to set them upon their high places.
The yours only strengthens the ours and multiplies praise to our common Father.
In Matthew 10:27 Jesus said, “Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light, and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops.”
May we give ourselves and others space to have secret seasons of darkness, for there are words that we need that they will only hear from the Lord privately in those places.