‘The secret place’
A Christian Science perspective: What does it mean to dwell 'in the secret place of the most High'?
At times when I have felt the need for security or courage, I have found comfort and strength in the 91st Psalm. The opening verse of that much-loved psalm reads, “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.”
How wonderful it would be to understand that we live continuously under God’s protection – “under the shadow of the Almighty” – and experience that truth, which this verse says happens when we dwell or live in the “secret place of the most High.”
But where is this secret place? If it’s “secret,” is it hard to find? And, if so, how do we commence the search?
My study of the Bible and Christian Science has helped me understand that the secret place isn’t actually a place at all; “the secret place” is an understanding or a consciousness of our true identity. This identity is spiritual and the perfect reflection of God, who is good (see Genesis 1:26, 27, 31). As God’s spiritual child or idea, each of us naturally and necessarily expresses the full range of divine qualities, such as intelligence, beauty, strength, and joy.
The Monitor’s founder, Mary Baker Eddy, puts it this way: “The ‘secret place,’ whereof David sang, is unquestionably man’s spiritual state in God’s own image and likeness, even the inner sanctuary of divine Science, in which mortals do not enter without a struggle or sharp experience, and in which they put off the human for the divine” (“The First Church of Christ, Scientist and Miscellany,” p. 244).
If we’re having “a struggle or sharp experience,” we find refuge and freedom as we gain a clearer understanding of our identity and of God. While our true spiritual selfhood may seem hidden from the material, limited view of life, we are able to better understand it through prayer. We can be assured that, in the sanctuary of prayer, holding to this real and perfect view of ourselves will forward – not hinder – our spiritual growth. Gaining a clearer view of our spiritual status as God’s image and likeness necessarily includes the healing of whatever is discordant in our lives.
Here’s just one small example. I recall a time when holding to this spiritual concept of others helped me and my husband during a threatening experience on a rural highway some years ago. As we were driving in the fast lane to pass a car, a truck pulled up behind us making it clear that he wanted us to move more quickly into the other lane. As we did, the driver began apparently to try to run us off the road. Though at first we were afraid, I immediately prayed about the safety of being in the “secret place of the most High.” Having been familiar with this concept since being brought up in the Christian Science Sunday School, it was natural for me in my prayer to consciously protest against the material view of this driver as outraged and to affirm his true, spiritual identity that is always dwelling under God’s harmonious government. Through actively praying to see all involved as God’s image and likeness, what appeared to be an escalating incident was resolved with no harm to anyone. We called the police to ensure the safety of other drivers, and when the truck driver was apprehended, the policeman informed us that the man had apologized for his behavior. Through prayer, we found peace and forgiveness, and we didn’t feel the need to press charges.
It was empowering to realize the truth that dwelling in the “secret place” is a prayerful realization of my and everyone’s identity as the image and likeness of God – protected and safe. In many other situations, this truth has been an essential bulwark for me. I have developed the mental habit to go quickly in prayer to the secret place when challenges arise.
Christ Jesus counsels, “But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret” (Matthew 6:6). I do this through prayerful affirmation of the truth of the perfection of my spiritual identity and the identities of all with whom I come into contact. I believe this prayerful approach has helped harmonize my experience and bring safety in dangerous situations, giving me glimpses of what it’s like to abide “under the shadow of the Almighty.”