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Closet Christian

My master bedroom has a walk-in closet. By today's standards (based on the closets in model homes or on HGTV's Househunters), my meager walk-in hardly qualifies as spacious storage space. It's rather tight, tiny, and—I hate to admit—at times a tad funky-smelling. But despite the chaos of stinky sneakers, dirty laundry, tangled hangers, and assorted jumbled shoeboxes, my closet has become a sacred place.

That's because, as a child, I was captivated by Jesus' words on prayer: "When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you" (Matthew 6:5-6).

In the wee ranch house where I grew up, my bedroom was my sanctuary. But my real "inner sanctum," the only space that made me feel uninhibited enough to unload my youthful angst onto God, was my closet. Crouched in its dark, tiny confines, I'd spill tears of anger and words of confusion over childhood slights and perceived parental wrongs. I took God literally at his word, going into the only secret place I had, trusting my heavenly Father, who saw my hidden heartbreaks, would meet me there.

As I matured and moved away from home, this habit fell by the wayside. After all, how convenient is a literal prayer closet in a dorm room, an apartment with a roommate, or a home shared with a spouse?

But several years ago, I rediscovered the power of closeted prayer. My husband was recovering from a routine out-patient surgery that had unexpectedly revealed a suspicious tumor. That afternoon, my husband and I were scheduled for a follow-up with the surgeon to review pathology results.

As my husband slept downstairs on a recliner, I stood before our bedroom mirror, struggling to make myself presentable for the upcoming physician visit. My stomach knotted with apprehension, my face haggard from worry, I was so overwhelmed with distress that I walked into our closet, shut the door, flung myself onto its floor, and broke down in the darkness. God! God! I flailed. Help me! I'm frightened my husband has cancer! I'm so afraid of losing him!

Somewhere between my flowing snot and convulsive sobs, God's presence filled that closet. His voice—inaudible, yes, but clearer than any sound I've ever heard—told me, "Everything will be OK."

That stunning and unexpectedly powerful encounter left me almost dizzy. I arose, blew my nose, wiped tears off my face, and suddenly felt electrified by an unassailable sense of God's absolute control over our scary circumstances. God—the God of the universe!—had seen my distress in that secret space and had chosen to personally comfort me. And although my husband's diagnosis turned out to be the one we'd dreaded, God graciously restored my beloved to health, fulfilling what God had told me he'd do in the secrecy of my closet.

I'll never forget that experience. Since then, whenever I need to process and pray with a candor I'd feel uncomfortable sharing among others, I head toward my walk-in closet. There I momentarily shut out distractions and concentrate on seeking God alone, in secret. For the last few weeks, I've been going there often, agonizing over some transitions in my life, seeking his guidance and grace. But I'm confident that as I surrender myself, surrounded by clutter and chaos and funk, my heavenly Father, who sees what is done in secret, once again will be faithful.

Do you have a special place to go for prayer? Have you ever experienced a powerful encounter with God there?

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

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