Children love secrets! Do you remember how special you felt when a friend whispered a secret in your ear and told you to treasure it and keep it safe? Do you remember making dens and hiding in there with siblings or friends, giggling and whispering as if no-one would find you? Do you remember the thrill of playing hide and seek or the excitement of finding a new den in the forest? As a child I loved to watch a program called The Secret Garden. I was captivated by the idea of having somewhere secret just for me and a special friend. I had my own secret garden next to my house where I remember spending hours exploring and using my imagination to turn it into my own little home.
What if I told you it’s possible to re-live that excitement and wonder as an adult? Would you think it was silly and childish, while being secretly intrigued? I wonder where your imagination would take you?
In recent years I learned about and experienced ‘happy place’ meditation, which involves creating a little safe place in your imagination where you can relax and restore peace. You can close your eyes and be there within a few seconds, releasing endorphins (happy hormones) into your body. Before you write it off as ‘hippy’ or ‘new age’, let me help you to see it from both a scientific and biblical perspective.
Meditation has been widely researched and is known to reduce cortisol and boost natural happy hormones such as endorphins, serotonin and melatonin. One particular piece of research indicates that our imagination is a neurological reality impacting our brain and body.
Tor Wagner, director of the Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience laboratory at CU Boulder and co-senior author of the study, states “This research confirms that imagination is a neurological reality that can impact our brains and bodies in ways that matter for our wellbeing,”
It comes as no surprise that Jesus spoke in parables and captured the imagination of his listeners with creative stories and poetry. He spoke in a way that invites you to imagine and go on a journey with Him. Matthew 13 describes the kingdom of heaven in many different ways that spark imagery and creativity. In particular, verse 44 describes the kingdom of heaven as hidden treasure,
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.”
A moment in God’s presence is like finding treasure. It’s worth giving up an extra half hour in your bed or missing a meal to sit in his presence. Many times, I have spent days over-thinking a problem, only to find that a few moments in God’s presence brings the answer I was looking for.
David found comfort using his imagination to be with God. Writing from the Desert of Judah, Psalm 63 offers a vivid description of his meditation.
“On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night.
Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings.
I cling to you; your right hand upholds me.”
Maybe you are unsure of how to start using your imagination to meditate in God’s presence? Let me take you on a journey to my secret place of worship.
I set the tone with some soft instrumental music. I close my eyes and find a restful position, usually sitting with my feet flat on the floor and my arms relaxed by my side.
“I’m walking alone along a quiet path, through a wooded area. The leaves crunch under my feet and I look up and down the pathway to ensure I am alone. There is a wall to my left and, gripping the key in my pocket, I look for the hidden door. I find it behind some creeping ivy. Its old sturdy panels of wood are covered in moss. I pull the heavy gold key from my pocket and push it into the lock. I turn the key and slowly push the door open while looking over my shoulder. I slip inside and lock the door behind me. I lean on the door and take in a deep breath of fresh air. My stomach tickles with excitement and anticipation. Where is He? What will we talk about today? I wander through the forest overwhelmed once again by how gorgeously green it is. Everything looks stunning in the secret place, like I’m seeing it through an enhanced lens. I step over the bridge across the stream and continue down to the opening in the trees. It leads to the beach; my beach. The sand is white and pure and the water is crystal clear. The beach-house, a little log cabin, sits at the end of the beach. This is my safe space, my secret place, where I meet Him. I walk down to the water and take my shoes off. I feel the cool water running over my toes and I smile, taking the time to feel the gentle wind on my face. I hear footsteps and I know its Him. I look round and smile. His arms are outstretched and His pace quickens. He grabs me and gives me a tight, big brotherly squeeze while saying “I’ve missed you!”. I thank Him for always waiting with open arms.”
Jesus misses you too! He is waiting to love you, not to guilt trip you for being busy. Go on, set that half an hour aside and visit your secret place to be loved, replenished and inspired by Jesus. He’s waiting.