As a kid, the classic novel “The Secret Garden” by Frances Hodgson Burnett, was one of my favourites. It follows the story of a selfish wealthy girl who becomes orphaned and is sent to live with her uncle. When she gets to her uncle’s home, her life begins to look very different to what it used to.
Against the will of the housekeeper, the little girl goes looking for a walled garden that belonged to her late aunt. Upon finding the garden and a key to get in, the little girl begins to spend a lot of her time in the garden tending to the weeds that have grown over the flowers.
As she spends time transforming the garden, and spending time caring for it; she becomes considerate, kinder, bubbly and less selfish. As the flowers started to blossom again in the garden, so did a joyful spirit in her.
Why am I telling you this? Well there are two reasons. Firstly, if you haven’t read the book as a child, you are truly missing out on a classic and should go and take a read of it. Secondly, this story depicts so closely the effects of spending time in our own ‘secret place.’
Our secret place
Now, before you think I'm on some loopy mystical buzz, the term ‘secret place’ comes up in both the Old and New Testament. Depending on the translation you read- other words for it that are used are ‘shelter’ and ‘dwelling.’
Although these terms don’t necessarily refer to an exact location as in the novel; they metaphorically draw out the same value that Burnett so cleverly crafted. That is, the more time that is spent in the secret place, the more one is transformed into a better version of themselves.
The secret place or the dwelling in the bible refers to one’s relationship with God. To meet with him in our quiet time, to ‘dwell’ in his presence, to take time out from our busy schedules to spend with him.
The Psalmist writes about the secret place in many of his works, yet two of my personal favourites are:
Psalm 27, verse 5
“For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent and set me high upon a rock.”
Psalm 91, verse 1
“Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most Highwill rest in the shadow of the Almighty.”
Time with God
Just like the little girl in the garden, time in the secret place with God revels our nature, transforms it and allows the fruits of the spirit to take root within us. However, also like the garden in the novel, the secret place left unentered, ends up being filled with weeds, distractions of our world, selfish motives and bitterness.
So just like the little girl, it is our responsibility to care for the secret place, to guard our time spent with God daily, to put it aside in our schedules and ensure that nothing takes us away from the time that we have set aside to come to Him.
In order to be transformed by the time we spend with God, we must also realise, that He is both the shelter and the gardener, whilst He listens to us, He also works to remove that which does not belong in our hearts, minds or life.
As in John chapter 15, verse 2, He prunes every branch in us that does not bear fruit, and prunes the ones that do so that they are more fruitful. Like the little girl, He removes that which is not of Him such as her selfishness, and replaces them with a kind and considerate spirit.
So when was the last time you visited the ‘secret place’?
Araina Kazia Pereira from Wellington, New Zealand is a published writer having written for various outlets and most recently joining as a Press Service International young writer. She enjoys asking the big questions and writing about the challenging questions that she has wrestled with in her own journey, as well as her learnings along the way. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.