By Christine Darragh
Romans 8:22-23 ‘For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
I first read about “Thin Places” in a blog whose writer referenced a New York Times article, now 3 years old, but I knew immediately what she was talking about. Though she was speaking from her own loss and fragility, the thinness actually references a proximity to eternity. A spot, usually geographical, where the divine is present.
Though we ascribe divine aspects to our experiences of spiritual depth, emotional strength or relational closeness, sometimes we forget to pay attention to the ground where our feet tread, treating it as holy. However, places often resonate more eternally than my feelings, which I’ve taught myself are fleeting, and spiritual highs can be just as ephemeral. That perfection is most palpable for me at the waters’ edge.
By the shores of the great lakes, whose familiarity is comforting, imbued with qualities I seek in busy daily life: enjoyment with the present, contentment, relaxation and contemplation. These meditative moments mean that while I walk the shore with my family looking for perfect skipping stones, I also see the expansive sand meet the water in a sharp edge that extends beyond sight.
While I lay, just listening to the sounds of fun and laughter, I also notice the sky with its often-changing blues; Sometimes soft with the cotton beds of clouds who float lazily along, sometimes foreboding and gray, following the lead of an agitated wind.
Listening to those shore sounds which comprise a symphony to summer allows me to drift away in my mind to bigger things, stressors in daily life, which when given the space seem less imposing. So, there on the shore, I use the pause to find answers to the questions that swirl, seeking a resolution.
But the moment that I enter the water, especially in the calm moments near dawn, and maybe again at sunset, the whole of myself seems to be washed away. Soft pastels paint the sky and the ridged sandy bottom holds a still pattern of the surface’s own movement, a photographic representation of the watery ripples which wrinkle the surface softly then disappear.
I wade out among these, my toes disturbing slightly the sandy bottom, legs churning the glassy surface. But the lake is large, and I am small. The grey-blue stillness only whispers at the agitation I create quickly finding again its placid facade.
While my body is covered in this icy calm, surrounded by a greater meditation between air, water, sky and ground, I find that my thoughts have stilled to meet the quiet around me, and I pause in the silent acknowledgement of a veil, whose thinness here, transfers the holiness of heaven into this moment.
I pause in the silent acknowledgement of a veil, whose thinness here, transfers the holiness of heaven into this moment.
Maybe it’s not just the delicate fabric of our physical realm that induces me to the experience of being able to reach out and momentarily touch the perfection for which I so long. Maybe the truth lies in my own spirit, whose veil can be lifted through submission, the laying aside of pride that blinds me to the glory I most want to feel near.
Maybe the truth lies in my own spirit, whose veil can be lifted through submission, the laying aside of pride that blinds me to the glory I most want to feel near.
I sense this too, at the waters’ edge, where my self-regard is swallowed by the mouth of a lake infinitely greater than any measured part of me. In a contest of wills, I’ve already lost, and I would rather feel the moist cool touch of its embrace than an icy sharp stab of fury. Somehow, this marks the divine for me more tangibly than a thousand bible verses. In this sense of awe, I am humbled and need nothing of myself, my vanity surrendered willingly. A completion accomplished through my own void.
Romans 8:26 ‘Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.’
But I groan, along with creation, for a perfection that can only be grasped as hope – a promise – whose fulfillment is borne in my pain. In my ragged, desperate moments, when my spirit is worn to shreds in the tides of a life which courses with shame and guilt, I call without speaking in a voice only a Loving Creator could hear and understand.
These pleas are lifted like incense, groans of pain and agony in an appeal before the greatness of God-in-eternity to reach through the fabric of my separation and cast a finger of help into my broken life. This window is not a carefully sacrificed pride, or a calm meditation, but a panicked clawing, a tearing in the only direction from which I perceive any help can come.
This window is not a carefully sacrificed pride, or a calm meditation, but a panicked clawing, a tearing in the only direction from which I perceive any help can come.
These moments are populated with salty tears – a mourning over my own pride – whose survival has meant my certain death. A destructive curtain drawn, achieving my separation from the promise of completion in Jesus. But simultaneously, I sing a dirge for that same vanity, which must now die, saying goodbye to my sometimes favorite past times, the sins which bring me an immediate, tangible sense of fulfillment, always carrying me far away from the forgiveness which promises me unity with my Savior.
How though, can I find an answer when my desperation is long and the tearing and tears seemingly bring me no closer to help? In my quiet moments of grief, I’ve turned back to my selfishness as a protection, ceasing to seek the worn places, only to shore up my longing behind a wall of pride – its surest shield.
No longer crying out, rather staring stonily ahead in a stoic display of nonchalance. If the thinness I seek will not reveal itself to me, than I shall declare myself sufficient and no longer seek it. Full of pride. Broken, but unyielding.