The Thin PlaceAll we need to do is turn on the Internet, television or radio and we are bombarded with commercials encouraging us to find a “thinner” us. Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, NutriSystem, and a plethora of newly designed fitness equipment promise to magically transform us and lead us to our inner, thinner self. But this is not the thin place to which I refer.
On one occasion I reflected on John Shea’s writings in the guide for the Sunday Gospels, entitled, “Finding the Thin Place.” His teaching included the following short story:
A woman returned from a trip to the isle of Iona. When her gardener heard where she was, he quietly said, “Iona is a thin place.” “A thin place?” she asked. “There is very little between it and God,” the gardener explained.
Shea concluded with this question: “Are there thin places where the usual thickness between the sacred and the profane is only a fine membrane?” I stepped back into my inner self to reflect on this story, holding gently but profoundly this essential question. I then “leaned into” all those moments in my life where I experienced that fine membrane and contemplated some of those “thin places:” waiting for results after a medical exam; reading an email notifying me of the death of a friend; receiving a phone call about the illness of a dear companion. Through my thoughts journeyed all the people who have struggled with the loss of a job, marriage difficulties, and financial problems, all while trying to remain faith-filled amidst such chaos in our church, our culture, and our government.
What if, in that painful “thin place,” God was present all the time? What if, when we are most vulnerable and feel not in control, God moves in with powerful grace and we find ourselves in a “thin place,” finally able to acknowledge that God is here with us and that we are not alone?
Recently, I had the privilege to visit with some of our older sisters who have “retired” from active ministry and are now dealing with a number of physical limitations. As I listened, they spoke in “essences” . . . that which is really needed, important, valued, and essential. They live very close to the “thin place,” unencumbered by the distractions and obstacles that often cloud our vision. Their words and insights are wise and comforting; their voices, soft and gentle. Yes, they live very close to the “thin place,” and when I left their presence, I knew that I too, like the woman in the story, had truly visited a “thin place.”