Thin Places

Ever since Jacob dreamed about the ladder upon which angels ascended and descended between earth and heaven, people have been aware that some spots seem to be "thin places."  Places where the separation between earth and heaven is as thin as gossamer, where it's possible to imagine God's glory and God's reach and God's abiding presence and love to shine through all barriers.  Places where we can feel that God and/or God's messengers are very, very near.

For me, places where I can see the vastness of both water and sky are such thin places.  There is so much activity going on in them, even if I can't see it with my eyes.  I know that life is teeming in the water and in the sky and on the earth, all sorts of creatures going about their business, and I am in the midst of it all, trying to be aware of it all and maybe trying to be in synch with it all, too. 

The "thin place" pictured here is also a resting place for migratory birds.  As you probably know, birds that fly great distances have to find safe places to rest between the long legs of their journeys.  They need shelter and sustenance and a sense of safety.  Great numbers of birds - birds equally at home on the water and in the sky - rest in this area during the winter, reasonably undisturbed. 

We need such places of rest in our journeys as well.  Places that give us a sense of peace, and maybe elicit awe and wonder.  For me, water (and especially water and sky) views give some kind of visual peace that provides respite even when I'm driving along the highway and can look out into a marsh or river or canal or pond and get that sense of peace.  We need that sense of sustenance and safety, too, so that we can be present not only to God in our resting but to God in our doing.  And so that we might have a sense that while the world is vast and confusing and our place in it might be small, we are beloved and have a place in the world that belongs to us, uniquely.  That we are part of creation and have a part to play with the gifts we have been given to use for the good of the world.

When I'm in the kind of place that gives me peace, I actually feel more capable of taking on the arduous tasks of life.   Because I feel that I am not alone but supported by God and God's angels who move back and forth between and among us all the time.

Where are the thin places you love?


Ray Barnes said…
A beautiful post and beautiful picture too Penny.
I do know such places but for me they are of the moment and do not have the same feel on another visit. So time and place appear to be significant.
On the other hand, obvious though it may seem, St. Mary's when no-one else is there is often the place where I feel safest and most warm and relaxed. Nothing to do with the temperatures, which are normally pretty low.
If I am having a particularly troubled time for whatever reason, as soon as I am in sight of the church spire I feel a sense of comfort.
Denise said…
A few weeks ago, Becky Eldredge posted about Thin Places on the dotMagis blog, so I’ve had some time to think about this. I think part of the nature of thin places is that they might not be the places we expect. And returning to the location of a thin place that was important at another time might not evoke anything special on the next visit. But wherever the place, I am drawn to places and practices of peace, for “rest in our journeys” as you describe it, Penny. I suspect we all are—but I also recognize that my places of peace are different from the next person’s, and so on, and that’s good.
Ray, thanks for bringing up an important point: for many of us, churches themselves are thin places at certain times. My own reconnection to organized religion came about through being in some "official" sacred spaces at a time in my life when I didn't even know I was searching.
Thanks, Denise! I like Becky's post - thanks for directing me to it. Certainly Jacob's thin place was not where/what he expected. The important thing is to be able to recognize it, as Jacob did, and give thanks.
Perpetua said…
What a beautiful reflection in words and image, Penny. One of the thin places to me is Iona, Columba's island, which also has your beloved sea and sky. Another is the church where I was curate and where I conducted the marriage service for our daughter. I only have to go through the door to be in a thin place. There are others, some, as Denise says, only for one time, others for ever.
Thanks, Perpetua. I look forward to visiting Iona some day, as I have heard so many wonderful things about it!