I wish that I could tell you which book I first heard this term in. I’m going to guess it was an Elisabeth Elliot book because she is my favorite person to quote, but it could have been anyone, it was such a long time ago. I started learning about secret altars because I’m generally a public person. NOT as in life of the party, NOT as in has a million friends. I’m a public person as in a weakness of mine is that I like it when people notice that I’m sad/angry/happy and so I don’t mind speaking very honestly about things. I don’t think that straight forwardness is bad. I do think that being open for the sake of attention is shallow.
A secret altar is something that you are struggling with or that you give up in your life and you don’t tell anybody about it. Not just that you tell God first and then you go talk to someone else, you literally don’t talk about it to other people. It is an altar between you and God that things are sacrificed on without you getting any credit. God and I go way back with this secret altar thing.
Today I’m finding that the little things take the longest to die. It’s really a daily struggle. I feel like I read articles where people are like, “I struggle with this” and it seems like they generally win, but I definitely lose more than I win. Do you get the mental picture of a little wooded glen with a pile of rocks that me and God meet at and have intelligent conversations while I give up my vices? It’s more like a battle scene with yelling and tears and blood everywhere, with long stake-outs and break downs. Sacrifice isn’t pretty or poetic. I desperately and violently do not want to die to myself.
Is there a tone to your relationship with God? Do you have normal things that you always do? Do you have inside jokes and “looks”? Do you interact with God? Maybe I’m the whacked out one, but our relationship works. I yell, cry and throw things and then I give up and we work together. He has a firm hand and doesn’t give in easily. If your friendship with God is stale, stagnant or one sided… maybe you need to re-think.
Build a secret altar. If the idea is new to you, why don’t you try sacrificing something smaller on a temporary basis like you would for lent. Just get used to the idea of going through something with God privately, don’t ever tell anyone else about it. That is where you will build a real friendship with him.