Lead Me to the Secret Place / by Joellyn Hoekstra

I like to ponder heaven. I do it a lot. I think about 100 million angels singing around God’s throne, His royal robes flowing over and filling the whole room. I think about seeing Jesus face-to-face. I try to grasp even just a small portion of the love that will flood over me with such force that I will not be able to fathom a moment when I could have denied or rebelled against Him. But some of my most frequent heaven daydreaming sessions include Him taking me by the hand and leading me to the Secret Place.

This thought comes from one of the better-known verses in scripture mentioning the womb, Psalm 139. As I have shared before, any discussion of the womb and I get pretty excited. “For you created my inmost being. You knit me together in my mother’s womb.” But it’s a later verse that really gets me,My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the Secret Place.” 

I love this place, the Secret Place. A part of me is hesitant to even share it publicly because it’s so dear to me and because there are really no words to adequately describe what I see when I think on it. I don’t want it tainted, criticized or heavily analyzed. I am not a theologian, and I’m not claiming to have read specifically of this place in scripture, but I have seen the fruit of pondering this Secret Place in my parenting and in my deep love for all of God’s people. 

I started praying for my babies long before I ever had them. Actually, before I was even married. I knew God had written their lives into His great story long ago. Why wait to start praying for them? But it made me wonder where they were. I started dreaming of a place where He might be keeping them, forming them, and rejoicing over them with singing in heaven. What would they talk about? Would He tell them about me? Could He be preparing them for their time on Earth at that very moment? How long have they been there? Were we once dwelling there together? Does He reveal others around them who will be siblings or friends?

This dreaming has changed how I look at them. It’s changed how I parent them. I have a deep appreciation for the value and preciousness of their lives. They simply do not belong to me. They are not my property. They are God’s precious creation. It makes me careful of how I talk about them to others and how I talk to them. These are eternal souls. They belong to God. They were, they are and they will be forever. 

I don’t think I have a specific parenting philosophy, and I tend to avoid parenting “How to” books. Most of the decisions and stances I take in parenting my children come from praying for a deeper understanding of who they are to God. I know He has a plan for them. I want to foster that, to always remember that I don’t deserve these precious little ones. “Children are a gift from the Lord, they are a reward from Him.” (Psalm 127:3) I want to love them and give them security and warmth that will allow them to be able to open up their vulnerable hearts and follow God, no matter what He asks them to do. Our home and my arms are the place on earth that God has chosen to shape my kids into who He has created them to be. 

Sometimes I think we take too much credit and other times too much blame as parents. The thought of my children belonging to God long ago and forever more frees me of this on a daily basis. When someone tells me my kids are cute, I usually respond by saying, “I know!  Aren’t they incredible?” I’ve seen the shock on their faces to hear this kind of response, and I get it. It’s just that I truly don’t view them as “mine.” Okay yes, I did carry them around for 9 months within me, but I did not create them. I cannot simply say “thanks” and take the credit for this astonishing little person. In my heart, I think of how God did take such delight in creating them. He deserves the credit, and I want to hand it back to him with every chance that I get.

They are my responsibility, and that is a really crazy thing to think about. He didn’t accidentally give me these babies at the wrong time. Job 14 tells us, “He has their months and days numbered already.” When I prayed about becoming pregnant with Silas, I opened myself up before God and asked if He would send me one of His adored children. God knew full well that we had no money saved up. He knew that Aaron and I were young. He knew that this would be our first-born. I remember praying, “Please, God, just not a child who needs a lot of monetary resources. Please don’t send us a pro golfer or something crazy like that. We can’t afford it.” I know that He knows Silas far better than I do. He knows the plans He has for him. We are the parents He sent in place ahead of him. That takes a lot of pressure off of me.

I grew up surrounded by adoption. I used to figure I would probably not be able to carry a biological child. I had so many beautiful women in my life who had been unable to conceive, and they had all these incredible children adopted from various places around the world. It got to a point where I would meet another mentor and think, really God? Are you trying to tell me something here? I was fully prepared and eager to adopt. Thinking about the Secret Place has shaped how I view adoption, and I still hope there are adoptions to come for us as a family. How long has He seen their unformed body, this soul? Who does He have set apart for me? It doesn’t matter what color they are or which womb they grow in for those few short months. That baby was created long ago with me in mind as his or her mother. I’ll take them however they come to me.

The Secret Place has changed the depths of how I grieve for sweet friends struggling through pregnancy loss. It doesn’t matter how long that baby has been growing inside her before she began the terrifying moments of feeling that fullness slip away. It is always devastating. Always. That baby has a soul. Does that mama remember him or her?  I think somehow she does. She was eagerly awaiting the reunion, and I was expectant with her. What a beautiful thing it is to see a mother meet her sweet little one, and she will someday. It will have to wait, and I hope I get to be there for those triumphant moments.

It changes how I receive new babies in a delivery. This tiny creation from God. From His Secret Place to our world. From His hands to…mine? It is truly an honor and a privilege to be part of a moment such as this. Often I don’t feel worthy to be present for all these births, but it’s probably not a great idea for your nurse to suddenly get up and leave in the middle of your delivery, right? I think it’s one of the many reasons that I love natural, calm birth so much. That moment (as long as medically appropriate) should be protected. It should be welcoming. It is sacred. There should be rejoicing and even laughter, not fear. Sheer euphoria. God even gives the naturally birthing body massive doses of endorphins for a moment such as this. I feel especially protective of the new mothers who are truly longing for this beautiful moment, but that’s a topic for another day.

Is my job here preparing me for a greater work that I will get to do eternally? Will I someday work in this Secret Place? Will I get to birth souls back into heaven where they are perfectly loved and accepted as they ought to be? I will take that job position without even one second of pondering. I know this might not be true at all. There is no elaborate description of this place in scripture. God might have a completely different way of doing the important work of creating His people, but I have a feeling that if I’m off here, it’s only that my small imagination and limited physical being cannot even begin to scratch the surface of what it’s really like.

“For you created my inmost being. You knit me together in my mother’s wombMy frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the Secret Place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body.” Psalm 139:13-15