we need a hiding place!
As we walk through the wild world,
the storms of life unleash upon us.
Where will we seek shelter?
help us look for the hideaways.
Sometimes, when I spend long hours hiking outdoors,
I find myself looking for discreet dens.
I love looking in the rocks for secret sanctuaries.
On one hike, I spot a house-sized boulder jutting out from a hill.
Underneath it, I see a sweet space where I could lay;
I think, This would be a good sleeping spot in an emergency.
In the Catskill Mountains, I walk by the remains of an old hotel.
The stone walls stand erect,
but inside them a wild forest grows up in the remains.
Birch trees, always the first to sprout, grow up straight and tall.
The hotel walls protect the baby birch trees from the wind.
I hike by giant gaps in the rocks, crags, and caves, too;
the earth offers so many stealthy spots to seek shelter.
I feel thankful for these hiding places nature provides us.
I feel thankful for these hiding places our Creator provides us.
The journey of life is long, and the weather can be harsh.
We stagger forward as winds buffet us.
It is not easy surviving the storms of life.
We can relate to the Psalmist’s laments:
My strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.
We, too, have known exhaustion. Grief. Deep loneliness.
Like the trees whose leaves began drying out this summer,
we, too, have become desiccated.
What will we do?
Initially, the Psalmist doesn’t know what to do.
While I kept silence,
my body wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
When I kept silence …
That feels like a convicting line.
Here, this Psalmist is experiencing a drought so bad
that they dried up and died a little inside,
like the dead brown mountain laurels in the woods.
Still, they kept silence, wasting away,
groaning in agony.
This feels like an allegory for the human condition.
Sometimes silence feels like the easiest solution.
It is hard to speak about our inner droughts.
It means we admitting have disappointed others and ourselves.
It means admitting we aren’t a perfect friend, lover, or co-worker.
When we talk honestly about our dried-up soul,
we let all our mediocre and subpar parts show,
and that is not really fun, is it?
It is not fun to talk about our addictive behavior,
obsessive thoughts, or ocean of sadness and anxiety inside of us.
It is easier to stay silent.
Yet, the Psalmist invites us to see the psychic cost
of remaining in that silent, stuck place forever.
The Psalmist keeps quiet,
embarrassed by their humanity, caged in by their fear.
It leaves them empty, wasted, and groaning.
The Psalmist is right.
It is hard for us to tell the truth about ourselves.
This is a scientific fact.
There is a huge emphasis on the self these days.
Just note how many selfies people take!
Yet, our sense of self is more fragile than ever.
For 50 years, psychologists have focused on self-esteem
as a panacea for social ills.
Despite their interventions,
people are just as lonely, aggressive, and miserable as ever.
There have been drops in empathy
as we all become more focused on ourselves.
At the same time,
our sense of self has become more fragile.
In the book Humble: Free Yourself from the Traps of a Narcissistic World,
Dr. Daryl Van Tongeren names three causes of our increased fragility.
One, our sense of self is more fragile
because we have shifted toward an evaluation of our worth
according to external norms and cultural standards.
We look outside ourselves.
What do people think of my social media post?
What do people think of my outfit?
What do people think my choices?
We focus a lot on other people’s valuations of us.
Two, our sense of self is more fragile
because we tend to an unrealistic positive view of ourselves.
We perceive ourselves as all strength.
We have a hard time perceiving our weaknesses.
In a college study,
students were invited to rate themselves on a variety of characteristics.
Where are you on a scale of 1 to 100 compared to the average person?
The entire class reported themselves as being above average.
Everyone thought they were above average.
That is not possible.
This inaccurate estimation is harmful
because it keeps us from receiving feedback well.
It keeps us from admitting our areas of growth.
Three, our sense of self is more fragile
because we are increasingly around people who have the same views as us.
We unfriend or unsubscribe if someone disagrees with us.
These days, we tend to live in echo chambers with people who agree with us,
so we are not practiced in receiving a diversity of viewpoints.
This makes our sense of self more fragile,
because we focus on defending our beliefs
rather than receiving new evidence and data.
Our biases lead us to be insecure and defensive.
We protect our fragile self-image
rather than seeking out growth.
Yet, our fragile sense of self leaves us like the Psalmist:
burnt up and burnt out. Puffed up and empty.
The emptier we become
the quieter we become
about what is really going on inside.
Thank God, the Psalmist breaks out of this cycle!
The Psalmist writes,
Then I acknowledged my sin to you [God];
I didn’t conceal my guilt.
The Psalmist is writing, Then I was honest.
I shared my whole self with you [God].
My strengths. My mess-ups. My humanity.
The Psalmist models for us a humble life.
Humility is when we speak about our strengths
and areas of growth honestly.
Strikingly, the book Humble notes that scientific studies
show us that arrogance leaves us lonely and unfulfilled.
In contrast, a humble life makes us connected and fulfilled.
And yet, we keep silent because we think silence will save us.
Humility and truth lead to life.
We spend so much of our time seeking affirmation.
What is beautiful about our hideout with God
is that it is the place where unfailing love seek us out.
One verse in one of my favorite translations of Psalm 23 says
“Love will chase after us every day of our life.”
The word for love here is hesed.
It means unfailing love, unbreakable love, faithful love, mercy.
This same sense of hesed is found in Psalm 32.
In Verse 10, the Psalmist writes,
“Your unfailing love surrounds those who trust you.”
I love this image!
Hesed surrounds us!
Hesed is the hideout!
Hesed finds you as you seek affirmation.
Unbreakable love is the rock protecting you.
Mercy is the safe place that empowers your soft soul to show up.
God’s hesed is warm, real, and comprehensive.
It is what allows your shy soul to rest at last.
It is true.
Our soul doesn’t want to come out.
It is true.
We don’t want to tell the truth because we find it excruciating.
This is why we need the intensity of God’s hesed
in which we have our refuge and hiding place.
God’s unbreakable love provides us shelter
from the storm of inner and outer criticism.
We live in hesed first.
It allows our soul, like a wild animal,
to poke its paws and quivering nose around the cave of life.
We can name now our arrogance, our trials, our shadows.
We can open ourselves to growth.
Love comes first.
It empowers us to realize that our relationship with the divine one
is not going to change, no matter what we say or do.
It’s unfailing, unchanging,
like a rock, like a crag, like a boulder.
We can tell God anything.
The relationship just is.
It’s not going anywhere.
Bring your full self
to the hideaway of God.
Here, you do not need to perform.
You do not need to be like an exercise teacher
who always has to be energized.
We can come to God
softly and vulnerably.
What allows your shy soul to venture out?
A walk in the woods and a siting with the trees is my hideout.
What is it for you?
What is that moment when your soul
is protected from the elements so it can reveal itself?
Maybe you don’t have a hideout yet.
God offers herself, a strong rocky crag
where you can seek shelter.
Hello to your soul.
Come to the hideout
and find love.