Thursday, November 19, 2015

Unveiling the Secret Place

He that dwelleth in the the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.  Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence. He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.   

Psalm 91: 1-4

There is a secret place within all of us that we are reluctant to share with anyone.Yet, as we pass through this life we are constantly reminded of it and when we are emotions come to the surface that we may think of as less than manly. We dismiss such tender feelings with scorn, calling them "nostalgia" or romanticism, adolescent or childish, as though we are above such nonsense. It is a secret place within us that we cannot tell anyone about. At the same time, we cannot share this place with anyone either, lest we reveal too much about our selves and what we may quite mistakenly believe is our weakest place.  

Our secret place persists in trying to reveal itself to the world, peaking its head out from the pages of a book, or from a movie, television show or particularly poignant commercial for a fast food restaurant.  On occasion, our world connects with our secret places in ways we do not expect and we find ourselves turning quickly away lest someone spot a mist in our eyes and try to discover the place we have tried so hard to hide for all these years.

These invasions from that other world, we attribute to a brush with something beautiful or sad or some lost memory, as if beauty, sadness or memory were the thing itself. Some of us even avoid paying too much attention to such things lest they betray that secret place within us.

We all have such a place. It is a hollow inside us that is reserved for God and ourselves alone - a perfect place from which everything we perceive as good and worthwhile is reflected in the "real" world. The great temptation is to mistake beauty or some other thing that is good for the thing itself in our desire to remain steadfastly rooted in the "real world". In this way, idols are set up, obsessions are created and lusts are cultivated.  

But the scent of a flower, the red and gold of a sunset or the waves of an aurora across the sky are not the thing itself. The beauty of a woman, the effervescence for a child or the taste of good food is merely the reflection of the beauty that lives in the secret hollow of our souls. What we perceive as good and pure and fine is recognized because we already have an image of what such things ought to look like imprinted upon our souls.  

Men in particular are taught that we need to outgrow all that childish fantasy about secret places where love is true, men are brave, and truth, honesty and integrity are as easily had as wildflowers in a spring meadow. That's kind of sad really, for that secret place in the soul is filled by God to give us an internal guide - a sort of compass that always points toward Heaven and the New Earth.

We are always turning around a corner somewhere and stumbling upon something that opens that door a bit and tells us we have seen something of the land beyond. When it happens, those of us who cherish that secret place find that, in that unexpected instance, our emotions may betray us. We find ourselves weeping over a scene from a movie or shouting "YES!" in recognition of a hint of that secret thing in some post on Facebook or a story in the news.  

If we walk humbly with Christ, we are not ashamed to embrace those messages from the divine country which God seeks to plant within us. That secret place is not easily dislodged from us, despite our efforts to shut the door on it and accept some hollow shadow of reality. It's hard work to close that door and even if we think we have successfully walled off that secret place, when life beats us down as it surely will, the light from that place is waiting, knocking patiently, waiting to break down the door if we will but turn the key. Our reward for that small surrender is a flood that breaks over us and drowns us in the very light and joy we were hunting for in the "real" world but could not find, because we had shut it away and closed our ears to it's knocking.

C.S. Lewis described it this way, "These things--the beauty, the memory of our own past--are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself, they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshipers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard; news from a country we have never yet visited."

It is the secret place of the Most High where it is best to dwell, for living there changes us into the living image of all that is good, and kind and patient and loving and wise in that place.

Tom King

© 2015

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