A vivid imagination can be a blessing or a curse.
Since I was a small child, I’ve lived mostly inside my head. My brain is filled with constant thoughts, sweeping sagas and romantic tales, lines of poetry and colorful pictures so beautiful they might blow you away. And then music — of course — so much music.
This is the life of an introvert. . . at least the way I understand it.
No surprise, then, that at the tender age of six, I was actively fantasizing and romping about inside my own brain with imaginary friends in imaginary gardens, engaged in imaginary conversations.
I was painfully shy. Although talkative and playful at home, I was mortified by the people out in the world who tried to speak to me. I preferred to keep to myself and hide behind my mother’s legs or the pages of a book. Yet, inside my head there was always a party going on.
My first grade teacher scrawled it in big black letters across my report card: “Daydreams!”
It was so true. Still is.
One of my earliest memories is of sitting in the first grade classroom at the end of the school day. We were supposed to have our heads on our desks. I was wearing a poncho crocheted by my grandmother. I loved that poncho because it was like wearing a portable tent. I remember pulling my head inside of it and gazing at my Hollie Hobbie lunchbox, pretending that the patchwork-clad girls painted on its metal side were my friends and that I lived in their make-believe world. Beneath my poncho I felt safe. Beneath my poncho I felt hidden. I could play out my daydreams in privacy, away from the scariness of the world outside.
Playing Hide and Seek
I always excelled at hiding. Through much of my childhood and early adolescence, I chose to remain quiet and as invisible as possible. The most hidden part of all was my inner life. I was terrified of the idea that anyone might discover my thoughts, my ideas, my dreams. Certain that any of the musings within my head would be deemed silly, ridiculous, or just plain dumb, I chose to keep everything inside. I had an active and elaborate fantasy life, made all the more extensive by the fictional world of books to which I was devoted.
As I grew into adulthood and “broke out of my shell,” I held on tightly to my inner thought life. I became defensive if anyone tried to pry.
A few years ago, I learned about a garment Jewish people sometimes use called a “tallit,” in order to create a sense of personal space during prayer. The name of the garment comes from the two Hebrew words “tal,” meaning tent, and “ith” meaning little. It is quite literally, a “little tent” that is to be placed over the head when praying as a means of retreating to a quiet and solitary place with God.
When I first learned of these garments, also referred to as “prayer shawls,” I immediately thought of my childhood poncho. That poncho was, although unknown to me at the time, a prayer shawl. It was where I went to hide, to be alone, to be safe, and to be myself. It would never have occurred to me that it was a holy place. I was only trying to escape from a world that seemed unsafe and unfriendly to a shy little girl like me.
I was hiding.
I hid because I was shy. I hid because I was afraid. I hid because I was insecure. I felt unloved, unknown, and I desperately hoped never to be called out.
But something sacred was happening in that hiding place.
God didn’t call me out, demanding that I remove the veil and face Him. No, He did quite the opposite. He came into the tent with me. He found me there when no one else could. Beneath the fringe and knitted yarn of my poncho, He saw me.
As surely as Moses felt the Lord’s presence pass over him when he hid his face in the cleft of the rock, I know now that the Lord was with me in that place. Even then, at such a young age, He was making His presence known.
I was not ready to break free from the security of being shy, of hiding. I wasn’t ready to reveal my true self to others. But God saw me and was patient and kind. He joined me there in the secret place.
There is certainly a time to come out of hiding, to walk in faith boldly and to live out in courage what God would have us do.
But there is also a time to enter into the secret place, to withdraw as Jesus did to the mountainside, to bow low beneath the veil and to know that one’s life is “hidden with Christ in God.”
My present day “prayer shawl” is the little nook in my closet where I go to pray and experience God’s presence. It is there in that hiding place where He covers me gently with His hand, renews my faith and gives me strength to walk out into the day.
What about you?
Where is your secret place? The place where you can let down your guard and just be? Do you need to withdraw from the busy-ness and clamor of life for just a while and experience a washing of God’s grace?
May I encourage you today to find a hiding place? And while you are hiding, seek the Father. I promise He will be there with you.