There is a Christian term, originating from the Celts, known as a “thin place.” It seems a bit of an odd term one might use to describe a measure of scarcity, maybe referring to our nerves or time or bodies. In Spiritual practice, a thin place is where the distance between heaven and earth is minimal, where divine and human connect, or maybe even collide.
Heaven and Earth are only three feet apart, but in the thin places that distance is even smaller. (Celtic saying)
These places have been described, by many, as actual physical locations, particularly Ireland, where the idea originated. In my experience, the mountains are a thin place, where the cacophony in my head stills and I can be present and aware of God. Or the ocean, particularly where the coastline is especially rugged. Sometimes, travel takes me to a thin place as I am removed from routine and forced to reconcile myself to new surroundings, people and customs. But often, in my life, thin places usually are related to current circumstances, to carrying the burdens of others, and realizing I am but a single thread in a great tapestry. I rediscover no man is an island, that we are all connected on an invisible plane.
Today, I am in a thin place. One of our own, in our community is desperately hurting, in pain, with many unasked questions and few, if any answers. The uncertainty is running deep, and the fear difficult to keep behind the guard wall. The what-ifs, which started as a whisper, have reached a fever-pitched growl, ready to nip at the truths one clings to in the quietest of moments. This time, the only solution is a break-through, a miracle, the perfect puzzle piece in an infinity of choices. The only suitable answer is an answer to prayer. The only acceptable answer is a miracle. This thin place, where Heaven and Earth are closer than three feet apart, is aching for understanding and relief.
These thin places, for me, are not exclusive to trials. I am finding that of late, opportunity and need are smashing together. One minute, I can be ecstatic with the fruition of long held dreams, and the next reminded of the heartbreak of many. One minute rejoicing with a friend, the next lamenting the choices of another. The both/and. Both hold equal opportunity to experience a moment of the shrunken distance between heaven and earth.
In today’s early morning hours, longing for sleep, but knowing deep it would remain at arm’s length, I sat with a candle lit in the window for our friend. I sat silent witnessing the flicker of determined light dancing in the darkness, recognizing the thin-ness, the combined frailty and fervor of the moment. Light overcoming, demanding notice, unceasing. This thin place where human effort and understanding halt, yielding space for the Divine to do what the Divine does best…bring hope, laughter, peace…out of the most wretched of situations. To shine the rays of Love through community, through grace, through understanding, through blessed peace.
When we are worn thin, the One who knows, who suffers with His children is shining His light of generous Love bright and unrelenting into our hearts through the sheerest of membranes, the most thin of places, breaking down the barrier to demonstrate His heart of solidarity and provision. May we sit still long enough in discomfort and ask the questions in order to experience the complete and marvelous beauty in it all.
May we recognize that perfect moment when Divine and Human meet.