A Thin Place
Our friend from England, David Blackledge, was visiting us here in Texas and he told us about a place called Iona in the northwest of Scotland where he takes annual retreats. He told us that others describe Iona as A Thin Place. What he meant was that when pilgrims or tourists arrive on the island of Iona they often report an easy, often unexpected experience of the presence of God. A thin place is where the separation between earth and heaven is thin.
His description made me want to go to Iona. I think I read about Iona in a bookI recommended in a past Tea Time, The Path of Celtic Prayer byCalvin Miller. But it also got me thinking of my own experiences in what I wouldalso describe as thin places. When I am at a certain retreat center I feel thatthe prayers of others through the years have prepared the way for my own prayerexperience to be sweeter. I don’t know how my place of retreat comparesto Iona, but hopefully some day I will be able to find out.
We all have our personal thin places. I have a place in my home where I regularlysit and pray and take in God’s words for me. I don’t do Bible studythere, only prayer and meditation. That is a thin place for me, but not likelyone for others who sit on that same couch.
Genesis 28 describes how Jacob marked his thin place—where he heard Godtalk to him—with a pillar out of the stone on which he laid his head thenight of the dream when God told him his purpose. He also gave that place a newname—Bethel which means house of God,--and a new purpose as aplace of worship.
Sunday, May 11, was Mother’s Day, but it is also Pentecost Sunday. We cannote the thin place in which the events of Pentecost took place. Think of allthe meetings that were held in significant places in Scripture. After the Ascensionthe disciples found a place, probably near the temple, where the disciples mettogether for prayer. On Pentecost Sunday the place where they were praying becamethe thinnest of all places when the Holy Spirit came upon them there. It wasin that place that they heard something like the wind, and saw something liketongues of fire, and they began to speak in languages they didn’t knowto people gathered in Jerusalem.
Thin places create transformation. After Pentecost, John and Peter were arrested,released, and returned to a place where the believers met together. They toldtheir experience and the people raised their voices in prayer and praise to God.Acts 4:31 says:
“After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Sprit and spoke the word of God boldly.”
Thin places are real and important in our lives. They mark significant times of transformation and change us deeply. Do you remember a thin place?