Escape Room

A few years ago, I went with some friends to an escape room in town. It was our friend’s birthday…so we “partied” by letting ourselves be locked in a dark room to hunt for clues.

We’re all smart women. We all work in higher education—two as professors and one with a doctorate! And yet, even with all that intelligence, I’m sad to say, we failed to escape.

A low point was when we found a cassette player, and excitedly tried to play its contents…only to realize that we’d not yet found the cassette to put inside. But we listened to several seconds of dead air, just the same.

Every time we made a mistake or did something silly in that room, I’d look up toward the ceiling, where the camera was hidden, and apologize to the employee I knew was watching. “Oh, I’m sorry!” I’d say. “We should’ve gotten that one!”

When our time was up, the lights came on and the door unlocked. We left, discouraged by our failure, but heartened by the fun we’d had and the memories we’d made.

It was less of an “escape” room, we decided, and more like a “have-a-good-time-till-we’re-set-free” room.

I thought of that escape room recently when I read a favorite verse in Psalm 18. I memorized verse 19 several years ago as part of a Bible study I was in. It struck a chord and stuck with me:

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He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me. Psalm 18:19

My heart leaps at the thought of being led into a spacious place of freedom, rescued by a God who delights in me. It’s similar to the escape room: I strive for freedom in a spacious place, apologizing profusely to the Employee in the Ceiling, but God sets me free. God is a God who rescues.

God rescues from anxiety and fear. He rescues from my need to control. He rescues from my constant striving to earn my place on my own merit. (Earned freedom is just release. But rescue is a gift—a grace.) God rescues me from my temptations and unhealthy patterns and mental strongholds—from deeply rooted, incorrect beliefs that play on repeat in my mind, shouting lies louder than the truth.

A few years after memorizing Psalm 18:19, I had a moving encounter with the verse. (I don’t tell this story often, because it sounds a little mystical and hard to explain—but it happened.) One evening, we looked through old pictures with our kids, and laughed at how little they were, and smiled at the happy memories the images recalled. And yet, some memories were bittersweet, too. Along with the joy came the sharp sting of past pain. When I went to bed that night, I cried, and asked God again to help me with my anger. “How long till these things heal up,” I asked him, “so the wounds won’t hurt?”

I fell asleep, still burdened.

But then…next morning, exactly three minutes before my alarm went off, I woke up suddenly—and those are two things I never do: wake up early or suddenly. My eyes popped wide open as though something had startled me awake—except, nothing had. I lay there, head still on my pillow, and all at once my first, clear, waking thought rushed in:

“I brought you out into a spacious place; I rescued you because I delight in you.” I “heard” those words in my mind, as clearly as if someone had spoken them aloud. It was Psalm 18:19, but not as I’d memorized it. The psalm talks about God in the third person: “He brought me out…” But—I believe by his Spirit—I heard it in first person, as though spoken to me. I brought you out.”

The tears came again as I realized…the God of the universe had stayed up all night, watching me rest, till he “wakened my ear to listen like one being instructed” (Isaiah 50:4). He woke me up to remind me of his good, gracious, spacious freedom. “You didn’t just escape that pain in the past,” he was saying, “I brought you out and set you free.”

That is a God who delights in his child!

That is a God who offers more than escape.

That is a God who rescues.