When the volume and pace of life get too loud for me, my soul starts to ache for my secret place. Almost subconsciously I find myself driving to Mission Trails, a vast regional park that provides wilderness in the midst of our city.
Even simply pulling in the parking lot, my heart begins to beat in excitement. Don’t be deceived: there is not much going on there. The landscape is mostly dry chaparral, cacti and dirt. The excitement comes from the promised lack of contrived excitement that my secret place promises.
When I go there, I know what to expect. The trees and trails don’t move. The water, which sometimes trickles and sometimes gushes with life, knows where to go. The rabbits, unconcerned with my concerns, go about their merry way.
In The Winter of Our Discontent, John Steinbeck perfectly captures my sentiments about my secret place (not so secret now that you know; notice that I didn’t give you details).
“It is odd how a man believes he can think better in a special place. I have such a place, have always had it, but I know it isn’t thinking I do there, but feeling and experiencing and remembering. It’s a safety place -everyone must have one…”
I find it interesting that the Psalmists often talk about God being their secret place. Inwardly I know that Mission Trails is only the outer shell of my secret place, the container. The substance of my secret place is My Savior, the self-existent one who made every seen and secret place in the universe.
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most high will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust. Psalm 91:1-2
The Hebrew word translated shelter above comes from the root word sathar which means hidden, concealed, secret, hidden parts.
Let me dwell in your tent forever! Let me take refuge under the shelter of your wings! Psalm 61:4.
You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble, you surround me with shouts of deliverance. Psalm 32:7.
Oh, how abundant is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you and worked for those who take refuge in you in the sight of the children of mankind. In the cover of your presence you hide them from the plots of men; you store them in your shelter from the strife of tongues. Psalm 31:19-20.
These Psalms are merely a sampling of the cries of the soul for God to be the secret place, yet they remind us that we are not alone in our longings for the shelter, security, sameness of hidden places. We were made for them, just as surely as He knit us together in the secret places of our mother’s wombs.
I see this innate longing in my children as they seek secret nooks in our small home, create forts of blankets and pillows almost daily and request to be tucked in tightly into bed each night.
No matter what is happening in the circumstances of life, the children of God have access to the secret place of the presence of the Lord through faith in Christ. The amazing thing about the secret shadow of His presence is that one need not drive to it or book a hotel or exotic vacation to find it. Through the indwelling Holy Spirit, we have access to the secret place in the throes of life, in line at the grocery store, in carline and in the chaos.
My favorite part of my physical secret places is that they set me for the stillness that strengthens my spiritual secret places. Literally. There is a huge boulder that I sit under when the scorching San Diego sun and lack of shade trees has me sun-burnt and sighing.
As I sit under my huge boulder, I cannot help but think of the renewing shade of Jesus, our Eternal Rock.
Behold, a king will reign in righteousness, and princes will rule in justice. Each will be like a hiding place from the wind, a shelter from the storm, like streams of water in a dry place, like the shade of a great rock in a weary land. Isaiah 32:2
Oh, how I hope you have a secret place; even more so, I pray you know the secret place of His presence.