Friday, August 26, 2011

thin places

This is a post I've been thinking about since the Allagash. While paddling up Eagle Lake at about 6:00 on Wednesday morning something struck me. It was early and the lake was glass, there were no sounds to disturb the peace that God had placed on the waterway this morning. What I noticed was the clouds. I looked up and it seemed that they were closer to the earth. I felt that if my arms were just a little bit longer, I could have reached right out of the canoe and grabbed one. Unfortunately words can only do so much to describe not only the setting, but the feeling it caused. I don't mean that there was fog: there was plenty of that, but these clouds were different. These were the clouds you see floating lazily by on a summer day in the midwest, miles above you. These are the clouds you make animals out while laying in the grass. These are the clouds that make you feel small when you fly by them in an airplane. These were real clouds, and they were mere feet above our canoe.

A "thin place" is one of those locations where the dividing line between holy and the ordinary is, well, thin. Those places you get to and a shiver runs down your spine because you know that just on the other side of the paper-thin veil God rests. The Allagash is one of those places for me. If I had my druthers I would probably be on the Allagash right now, with nine of my favorite people. In fact I'm somewhat convinced that when I die and go to Heaven I'll be paddling my way there in an Old Town Tripper with my Shaw & Tenney paddle. I don't want to give the impression that the reason that the Allagash felt like heaven was because the clouds were close to earth, because there's much more to it than that. Sleeping on the ground, reading Psalms out loud, sharing who I am without fear and that same trust being reciprocated...all these things are heavenly. All of these lead me to the feeling of being close to the other side.

I think one of the reasons that we don't experience thin places is because we have built our lives in our own image. How often are we forced out of the fortresses of our mind to something totally new and novel? How often do we take a step out the door into something we've never experienced before? For me the answer is, simply, not enough. It's a wonder that it's taken me this long to "figure out" why I struggle with life sometimes. I've kept the same old habits for a long time. And not even bad ones, just habitual behavior that leads me on to the next habitual behavior. I've been blessed with singleness at twenty-four, and all I can think about is how I want my life to be a job, wife, and kids. Those are great things and things I eventually want. But as for now I want to take what God has given me and run with it. I want to be dependent on Him to lead me through the valley, and rejoice with me on the mountaintop. I want him to be in the back of the canoe, guiding me through lakes and rivers. Feeling the pain of headwinds the joy of rapids. I don't know how I'll manage to become that, and I'm sure that just as soon as I take a step  in the right direction it'll get hard. But I'm tired of yearning for something different. I want to be thankful for what I have.

So for the next couple of months I hope to find more thin places. But I also hope to find Him in the thick ones. Get out your front door and go someplace. Hike up a mountain, paddle across a river, seek God and you'll find Him. And when you find one of these thin places, rejoice. Take it all in, and go on home. Because we can't hold on to time any more than we can decide what the weather is going to be. But we can remember, and we can share.


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