Sweet Escape

(Reprinted from 2003)

Do you remember the Chevrolet Tahoe commercials from a few years ago, the ones featuring a poem read by James Garner? The first time I heard the poem, I was smitten. I had to find out who wrote it, where it came from. I kind of thought it might be a Dr. Seuss offering I had missed along the way. It just smacked of his unusual poetic style. Turns out it is ad copy written by the heretofore unknown Patrick O'Leary. I wonder if he even knew the depths he had mined with such powerful simplicity.

The poem, entitled "Nobody Knows It But Me," goes like this:

There's a place that I travel,

When I want to roam And nobody knows it but me.

The roads don't go there, And the signs stay home And nobody knows it but me.

It's far, far away and way, way afar, It's over the moon and the sea, And wherever you are going, That's wherever you are And nobody knows it but me.

I am sure these words stir about as many feelings in those who read them as there are life experiences. They carry in them a haunting sense of escapism.

Most people, I think, in the recesses of the mind, have some place to which they escape. It may be through something as purposeful as meditation or as incidental as day-dreaming. Since my earliest days, I have enjoyed a vivid imagination. I have lived parallel lives: the one in the "real" world of everyday experiences and the one in the world I have contrived. In that other world, the contrived world, I have been a lonesome cowboy on a dusty cattle drive, a dashing prince rescuing some distressed damsel, a heroic athlete winning it all, a bold general preserving a way of life, even a great evangelist, preaching to tens of thousands of hungry souls.

And until now, almost nobody knew it but me.

But the chord these words strike in my heart today is echoed in one of my favorite Psalms:

He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. -Psalm 91:1

I read about that place where the roads don't go and the signs stay home, that place that is out there beyond the everyday experiences of mundane life, and I think of that holy escape into the presence of God - an escape I have taken almost daily for over thirty years. It is a haven, a refuge.

Sometimes I have been driven there by maddening pain. A few times by devastating loss. Confusion has pushed me there. So has disappointment. But then there are those times when it is unmitigated, unspeakable joy that drives me to the secret place of the Most High. There are those simple moments of praise. Those peaceful moments of grace. Those times when my heart just wants to sing.

I have been there, alone with Him, at the sun's rising, when the world is glistening in the morning dew and awakening to another day of grace . I have been there at sunset, the sky ablaze with His glory. I have stolen peaceful moments from hectic days. I have been there during a long drive across a vast Arizona desert, and on a leisurely walk around a small east Texas pond. I have lain in grassy meadows, squinting against the summer sun, and gone there. I have stood alone in a graveyard, a winter wind biting at my face, and drifted into the warmth of His presence.

I have even been there tonight, from this very chair, in this very office.

This great hymn captures the essence of what I am feebly trying to express here:

Sweet hour of prayer! sweet hour of prayer!
That calls me from a world of care,
And bids me at my Father's throne
Make all my wants and wishes known.
In seasons of distress and grief,
My soul has often found relief
And oft escaped the tempter's snare
By thy return, sweet hour of prayer!

Do you have such an escape? I hope you do.

A Prayer for Today: "Father, thank You for being my holy Haven, my escape, my Comforter, my Roadmap, my Guide, my constant Companion. How I relish the time spent in holy communion with You! I need it, I want it, I promise not to forsake it. Amen."