On a blustery winter day several years ago, I stood on a sandy bluff on the western shore of Lake Michigan. The stormy waves crashing on the shore mirrored the stormy gray sky – and my mood. As I watched the waves roll in, a an always present wave of fear and anxiety overwhelmed me. I began to cry.
And then I “heard” a voice softly and lovingly say, “You are my child and I will always take care of you.” As I tried to absorb the fact that I had just heard the voice of God, the clouds parted brief, and bright sunshine swept over the snowing trees and ground creating a shimmering winterscape. I never forgot the moment nor the feeling of safety that came over me.
Years later I learned about “thin places,” a gift bequeathed to us by Celtic Christianity.* Thin places are physical locations in which “God’s presence [is] more accessible than elsewhere, places where heaven and earth seem to touch, where the line between holy and human meet for a moment” (Amy Julia Becker’s blog in Christianity Today). Becker goes on to say that
Thin places happen every time, every place, where two human beings connect in a way that reflects our God-given humanity in all our brokenness and beauty. . . . Thin places, places where heaven and earth touch, are places where humans come together in reciprocal relationships of love.”
Another writer, Peter Gomes, a Harvard theologian, believes that:
Seeking “thin places is the vocation of the wise and the good — and for those that find them, the clearest communication between the temporal and eternal. . . . Perhaps the ultimate of these thin places . . . are the experiences people are likely to have as they encounter suffering, joy, and mystery.” (quoted in a blog by Sarah Blanton titled Thin Places and The Transforming Presence of Being on the On Being website.)
Thin places are a blessing from a time when mysticism could still overrule logic and reason. “They exercise your spirit, make you more in tune with your own spirituality. Prayer seems more powerful. Answers come more readily. The sense of peace is overwhelming,” writes Mindie Burgoyne of the Thin Places -Sacred Sites website.
The blessings of thin spaces are available to all who seek God’s face. Thin places happen during intentional times of solitude and silence. We sit in them as we read Scripture and its meaning for us jumps off the page. They appear as we absorb the spirit of the world of nature. They happen during a slice of honesty and acceptance between friends. The experience of physical dying often seems to be a “thin space” for many. Those of us left behind find them in our loss and sorrow when Jesus comes, as he promised, and comforts us. Thin spaces are all around us; we just need to open up to them.
*NOTE: Who exactly are the Celts? We know very little for sure. Historical references place their beginnings as far back as 1500 BC. or at least to 500 BC. They may have been from regions north of India or from middle Europe. Wherever or whenever they originated, they have often been called the first Europeans. We know for sure that Celtic tribes were in England long before the Saxons and Angles arrived to give it the modern name Angle Land (England). Julius Caesar fought the Celts (or Gauls as they were called on the continent). It is thought that later Roman influences drove the Celts into modern England, and then finally to Ireland. In Ireland the Celts met the missionary Patrick who zeal led thousands of Celts to faith in Christ.
image of lake by fineartsamerica.com
image of landscape by mindie blanton of thinplacestour.wordpress.com