Go hide yourself.
That was God’s word to the prophet Elijah and the short phrase that helped to make meaning of the season I had just entered into, a season that would make prayer as vital as eating. I would love to share a more glamorous entry into this life dependent on abiding prayer, but desperation was my gateway.
After accepting a new job across the country, we said our goodbyes to family and friends, watched our belongings drive away in two moving vans, and boarded a flight toting our 4 small children. There we were, hanging mid-air amidst a lot of uncertainty. I was bearing a broken heart, feeling deep loss in leaving our dearly loved community, and navigating through some deep and fresh relational wounds, wounds deeper than I had ever known. I was numb, exhausted and had no idea what to do next.
As if I had just had an amputation: this was the severity of the loss that I felt. As if I couldn’t find my most comfortable, worn-out pair of jeans: this was the daily sense of unfamiliarity and incessant lack of comfort.
My soul was in a foreign land, as was my body. Complete and total disorientation was my heart’s new geographic location.
I felt nowhere to be found.
Our house was situated on a lake. During our children’s nap time, and at any time and every time I could find the time, I would bolt through the back yard to the dock, situate myself on the lone plastic chair and… stare.
I stared at all things beautiful – for hours. Beauty was a balm of Gilead for my soul. Beauty helped heal my heart. The beauty of a white egret, the way the light played on the water – ever changing, the stillness of the lake, the sounds of nature. Solitude.
“Go hide thyself by the brook Cherith.”
That was the selected Scripture in my daily reading from a devotional book* that would become one of my closest companions. “Go hide yourself,” God said to Elijah, where he was to live by a brook, whose name means “cutting away,” during drought and famine. Elijah, this great man of God, listened and trusted, fully dependent on the God who provided drink and meat for his survival. He remained there. Three plus years. Hidden. Dependent. Awaiting the next instruction.
Go hide yourself. It was God’s word to me, sitting there staring from that little dock, my Cherith. Having been newly transplanted, my roots were exposed, ripped out, and dangling. I had yet to be grounded.
“Be okay with being unknown, unrecognized, unacclaimed,” He spoke to my heart.
Be stripped of unnecessary things that once defined you. Be loved. Be still. Pour out your heart over and over and over again. Grieve your pain and losses, cry out for light and hope in the darkness, a way through this wilderness… and breathe prayer. Wordless prayers. Tears for prayers. Just being prayers.
The secret place: hidden. Alone with God. Only He could do what needed to be done in my heart and in my circumstances.
Hiddenness meant not running to find a temporary solution or quick fix.
Being hidden meant not hurrying to find my place or position among many people.
Being hidden meant not entering into frenetic busyness.
Hiddenness meant that a form of isolation was necessary for my heart. It must be poured out on Him in the secret place. He was the place for my pain.
It was a winter season that summer and I had to be willing to be stripped bare and live in the discomfort until the season was completed. It was there that intimate friendship with God captivated my raw and tender heart.
Prayer changed me.
Most of us know the basics of metamorphosis, a caterpillar being transformed into a butterfly. In this amazing journey, the old is stripped, everything inside the chrysalis is transformed, and a beautiful new creature emerges. All parts are completely necessary and no step can be hurried.
You’ve seen photos of a chrysalis hanging from a tree. But what keeps it attached to the limb? How does it not fall to the ground? What keeps it secured as it hangs confined, awaiting its season of delivery?
It is a tiny post with barbed hooks called a cremaster. After spinning a silk pad, the caterpillar twists and turns to fix itself securely in place. This secure “fastening” allows for further wrestling and the necessary shedding of the old. Like an anchor holding the ship to the ocean floor, the cremaster moors the chrysalis and holds it steady, suspended in air, while a certain mysterious and awesome transformation takes place.
Enclosed, confined, disoriented, wrestling, waiting. Not knowing what will happen next. Letting go and taking hold. God is doing a new thing.
The secret of the hidden place is abiding. Though if feels as if one were, like a chrysalis, “hanging in an upside down question mark,” we are held secure.
Dear friend, do you find yourself in uncharted territory of grief or illness, transition or loss? Go hide yourself by your “brook Cherith.” Abide in Christ and pour out your heart in the secret place of prayer. He will provide your soul’s daily food and illumine a healing path upon which to set your feet.
You WILL emerge, albeit changed.
He is doing a new thing.
Streams in the Desert – Charles E. Cowman, Mrs L.B. Cowman – September 16
*1 Kings 17, John 15, Psalm 91
More info on chrysalis formation: http://www.learner.org/jnorth/tm/monarch/ChrysalisFormationLPB.html