When I was a child, there was a field behind our house where the earth had yielded what I called, The Gigantic Rock.
When the busyness of growing up in a house with seven kids got to be too much, I would wander through the field picking clover , nibbling on the sweet tubular flower until I reached this huge stone. Climbing up, I’d just sit, looking out over the fields listening to the breeze rustle in the long grass. Sometimes hours would pass by, just thinking, talking to myself, and imagining what life held in store for this youngest of five girls.
My mom once commented that when she’d go to the back door to call me in for dinner, instead of looking for me in the obvious places like the swing set or the garden, she’d first look up to the sky and find me perched high upon a branch of the huge maple tree in the back yard.
“What are you doing up there?”
“Nuthin’,” I would truthfully call back. I was doing nothing. I was simply being.
Perhaps my penchant for solitude and contemplation as a child was preparing me for learning to hear from God as an adult. I didn’t have such spiritual awareness at the time, but I can’t help but think now, that the first dreams I had sitting in the trees or on the gigantic rock were really Him whispering purpose and destiny into my young life.
Now, some forty years later, I struggle to justify just being. In a world where our worth and value is determined by what we accomplish and how productive we are, both in the workplace and in the home, it somehow feels self-indulgent to take time for yourself.
But I need that time. It’s not simply time by myself, for myself, but to talk to God and more importantly–hear from Him. I need that one on one time to know His voice so I will recognize it in the busyness of the rest of the day. John 10:27 says:
“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me.” (NLT)
I want to be like the sheep. When I don’t know where a situation is headed, or when things aren’t happening in the way or at the speed I anticipated, I want clear direction from the One Who knows the beginning from the end.
The bible speaks of a secret place. In the psalms, it is referred to as more of a spiritual place of rest:
“He that dwells in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty” (Psalm 91 KJV).
In that secret place where it’s just Him and me, I can be vulnerable and honest in a way that I cannot with another human being, no matter how close the relationship. There are no efforts to mask the parts that I want hidden from the world. It has been said that if we want God to show up for us in public, we must show up for Him in private and that means being transparent and honest with Him. It’s not like we can hide anything from Him anyway, but He wants us to be able to articulate our truth openly and honestly no matter how messy.
In Matthew 6:6 we are given a more physical example of the secret place:
“But when you pray, go into your private room, shut your door, and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (CSB)
Although a prayer closet, or a war room as the movie of the same title depicts, is not necessary in order to have time in the secret place with Abba, having a consistent place dedicated for meeting with Him creates an open invitation for Him to show up. That space becomes sanctified and wholly set apart for that one purpose. For the longest time, I seemed to encounter God in my kitchen while listening to worship music as I cooked. As weird as it seemed that He would show up there, it kind of made sense too; all through the bible are accounts of fellowship with Jesus that took place over a meal.
Resting in the Lord is not a passive activity but it’s rather actively tuning into the heartbeat of God. In his book, Abba’s Child, Brennan Manning re-tells the story of an older gentleman nearing the end of life. Manning had gone to visit and pray with him and he noticed a chair already placed beside his bed. Assuming the chair was placed there for his visit, he was surprised when the dying man told him that the chair was actually for Jesus. He told him that he had placed it there so he could envision Jesus sitting there as he poured out his heart to Him. When the man died, his daughter found him with his head resting on the seat of the chair– on Abba’s lap. What a profound image of tenderness and intimacy this story creates.
Recently becoming an empty nester–again (sometimes they come back!) I was faced with the decision of what to do with a newly vacated second bedroom. This was a no-brainer. I knew exactly what I wanted to do, and like a teenager giddy with the anticipation of having her own dorm room for the first time, I began moving furniture. Book shelf, recliner, guitar; only those items that would make this space simple and sacred would make the cut .
I am very intentional when it comes to this space. Some might think I’m a little weird, but I don’t see this room as mine, but rather Abba’s. I enter the room like I’m the one being invited in. It is wholly set apart for His purposes– for studying, journaling, reading the Word, and most of all, just being in His Presence. No cell phones allowed. It’s difficult to explain, but when I’m in His space, it truly feels different from the rest of my home. Some days, I go in feeling exhausted and beaten up by the day. I simply curl up in the easy chair and pour out my heart and frustrations. Other times I sit in silence, like the days on the gigantic rock or up in the tree. And I wait. And I listen. It’s an exercise in patience sometimes, but I feel that is what God is really trying to cultivate in His children–the ability to wait and keep a good attitude while doing so. Psalm 37:7 reminds us.
“Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for Him to act.” (NLT)
I continue to let Abba have His way in this space. Choosing to submit that little room to His purposes will produce sweet fruit and yield a bountiful harvest; it’s all in the waiting.
In the meantime, I have borrowed from the story in Abba’s Child. Another chair sits across from mine for Jesus to have a place to sit during our chats.
Yes and amen.