Thursday, April 15, 2010
In search of thin places
When we talk about seeing God in nature, I believe what we’re really catching are glimpses of heaven. I’m prepared to believe that in some way we don’t fully understand, earth and heaven exist in separate but proximate realms. What lies between them is less than we might imagine. When I’m snowshoeing at Crater Lake or afloat on Waldo Lake or cycling up Marys Peak, I sense God and his fresh, new world in a way I don’t in ordinary places. As much as I love to garden in my back yard, it doesn’t transport me spiritually. Most places where humans reside are mundane compared to what can be found in wild landscapes.
In the Celtic tradition, locations that afford us an opening into the magnificence and wonder of God are called “thin places.” I like that idea. It gives a name to something I’ve long sensed to be true. There is a Celtic saying that heaven and earth are only three feet apart, but in the thin places that distance narrows. A thin place is where the veil that separates heaven and earth is parted, if but for a moment, and one is able to receive a glimpse of God’s glory. A contemporary poet Sharlande Sledge gives this description:
“Thin places,” the Celts call this space,
Both seen and unseen,
Where the door between the world
And the next is cracked open for a moment
And the light is not all on the other side.
God shaped space. Holy.