He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High
shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
Wouldn't you know, the King James Version has the best description - the one I relate to most. Secret place. I used to find secret places. When I was a kid, growing up in New Jersey. If you've never been beyond the outskirts of New York, you just don't know the New Jersey of my youth. It's called the Garden State - and it was beautiful. We lived in a little town - one-mile square. We walked to the Corner Store for penny candy. We went to movie nights at the park, laying our blankets out to watch classics under the open sky and stars. We played in the street - marking boundaries and bases with chalk - popping tar bubbles - floating boats in the gutters after rain. It was a Norman Rockwell childhood. And I loved the secret places I found.
My sister and I shared the third-floor attic space - finished into a slope-walled garrett bedroom. Beneath the sloped ceiling were removable panels. Panels that gave access to extra storage under eaves too low to be part of the room. Panels that gave access to a secret place, where the roof met the walls of our home - where floor joists and insulation could be seen at the intersection. Unfinished, like the house had been caught in the act of getting dressed. My sister and I played games behind those panels - we would move them aside to enter, then carefully pull them back - an attempt to push the bedroom, the ordinary, away.
We made forts out of everything. In the wild, weedy space between the detached garage and the neighbor's fence, we built a multi-roomed fort from someone's discarded drywall. We hung beach towels between the upturned foot and headrests of lounge chairs. We climbed trees and found special seats high up on forks of limbs seemingly grown especially for our child-sized bodies.
I roamed the 'woods' - a little plot of forest behind the neighborhood church that stretched from parking lot to powerlines, and from the fenced backyards of friends to the backyard stream of strangers. It was about five acres of dreamland for an imaginative child. I knew every path, every hidey-hole, every climbable tree. I knew where the blackberries were - and I knew, that in the middle of one patch, there was a small, grassy space open to the sky, a bright blue visible between the shady branches of oaks, and elms, birch trees, and maples. I knew because I crawled, on hands and knees, to that patch of green. And I sat. Away from the world for a moment. Alone and satisfied.
David knew of secret places. He had discovered enough of them - hiding from Saul and his soldiers. Keeping his own men safe. In caves, in ravines, in wild hills. Running. Moving. No rest. No peace. David valued his moments of peace. His moments away. Those soul-satisfying moments of solitude and quiet. He yearned for them. Sanctuary. When physical hiding met with spiritual rejuvenation.
He that dwelleth in the secret places of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. There's a comforting thought. It feels like protection. It feels like love, safety, sanctuary. I want that. The world wants that.
David - no matter what happened to him, no matter what he did - David always kept his God, the Lord God Almighty, first. In his own spiritual secret place - deep in his heart, always in his head, so much a part of him that he lived and breathed God. He cried out to God in despair; he shouted and danced in praise and thanksgiving. David asked; he begged; he yelled; he sang; he wept. Imagine if we all had that kind of relationship with God. Imagine if we knew Him well enough to live out loud like David. Transparent and open. Trusting. Faithful.
I picture the shadow of the Almighty kind of like that grassy patch behind the thorns and bristles of the blackberry thicket, a Thomas Kinkade painting lit by sunlight streaming through protective branches of towering trees. A secret place of sanctuary. David lived in God. He rested under the shadow of the Almighty. I want that.
Heavenly Father, Almighty God, thank you for your stories. For the example of David - shepherd and King - your child. I want to live in you, as he did. Help me; guide me; teach me.