You are my hiding place; You shall preserve me from trouble; You shall surround me with songs of deliverance. Selah. Psalm 32:7 NKJ
I can still feel the smooth, cool branches of the huge maple tree on my hands and legs as I shimmied up the limbs, familiar with each branch as I scurried up high. Finally I arrived to my secret place, a massive (well to an eight year old) limb that stretched out over the street, with enough room to straddle it comfortably, using the trunk to lean on. From there, I could see the world pass by: men with briefcases walking home from the train, kids roller-skating and riding bikes with dogs chasing close behind, teenagers with low secret voices. But the best part was no one could see me. It was my hiding place.
I spent many hours in that tree. When my brother died in 1964, I climbed more often, escaping the confusing darkness that was cast upon my home. Eventually I came down from the tree for good, stepping into a world of unlimited distraction. But by age twenty I was worn out and ready to quit. Termed “passively suicidal” I was admitted to a psychiatric hospital in New York City. It seemed like a sanctuary, ten stories up overlooking Harlem. I felt safe. Then after six weeks I left and descended again into a life I was ill-equipped to handle. And I was on five medications.
That was long ago. As a nurse I can assure you that psychiatry does not have any more of an answer now than it did then. Different meds, same band aid. And after working two years on the night shift in a busy ER I can also tell you that there is no lack of broken, confused twenty-somethings out there. There’s only one thing I’ve seen that works and works for good. I had a real encounter with Jesus Christ over 24 years ago and I was changed in an instant. I still can’t explain it today. I just know I’m not alone. I’ve personally seen judges, thugs, cops and doctors, teachers, bikers and the mentally retarded transformed before my eyes through just one touch from Jesus.
The Bible says it rains on the just and the unjust. In other words, God doesn’t cut deals for His beloved children. I personally don’t believe life should be easy. I’ve been crushed and rebuilt several times. Once when my pastor asked me to share my testimony I asked, “Which life?” But I know that’s where my faith was refined or discovered, that’s where Jesus was waiting for me. That’s where I found the hiding place, a place of rest and redemption, a strong arm to hold me up when I could not stand up, a cool place of refreshing under the shadow of the Almighty. It was there for David when he had nowhere to run. It was there for John, alone and banished to a pile of rocks called Patmos. It’s there, right now, for you too.
I’m probably a little too old to climb a tree although I’d try. When my husband and I were dating (in our early forties) we climbed trees once for fun and it came back just like riding a bike. The maple tree in Connecticut is gone now and the street I climbed up above is very different. But the God who loved me even then has not changed one bit. When life gets hard, and it should, climb up. “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you”(James 4:8) He is your hiding place. And together you can sing songs of deliverance.