SACRED - Thin Places and Their Value In Our Busy Lives

A rugged mountain thin place

I live in a valley. I often make time to walk to the top of the valley, onto the hill. The wind stinging my eyes and ringing my ears, I look out across the whole valley. I see patches of sun breaking through the clouds illuminating fields and houses. I see a mass of rain falling on a patch of heather in the distance. 

In this moment I gain a heightened sense of perspective about my place within reality. 

I gain a heightened sense of self spatially as I realise just how small I am. 

But I also gain a heightened sense of self temporally, about my time on earth. This valley and hills were here long before I was, and will be there long after I am gone. 

In this moment I am drawn close to God, seeing my life spread out before Him, I recognise that I am held in His hands, kept at bay from ultimate chaos.

What Are Thin Places

Celtic Christianity had a word for these kinds of places, they called them Thin Places. The saying goes: “heaven and earth are only three feet apart, but in the thin places that distance is even smaller”. It pertains to the idea that there are places where the fabric between heaven and earth are thinner than they usually are. 

This does not mean that these places are literally closer to heaven, but testifies to the truth that there is no sacred / secular divide. ultimately all things are sacred, and that within this place we are able to see and experience that more clearly. 

In the Celtic tradition the term thin place is reserved for extremely remote, rugged areas, even harking back to the traditions of the desert mothers and fathers who devoted themselves to lives within the desert. They are places that help us to realise our fragility, and our reliance on God. Places that help us to put ourselves in perspective.

I believe that we can see these experiences within scripture. Moses on a mountain is told that he is on holy ground. Later again he encounters God on a mountain when he receives the commandments. Elijah encounters God in a cave on a mountain. During Jesus’ ministry he continually isolates himself and goes to a high place to pray.

Again, I am not saying that these places have an intrinsic virtue, but that they help us to frame ourselves within a wider context. They are places that help us experience God.

Thin Places and Us

In reality, Thin Places are not solely reserved for rugged, isolated places, but can be a place of peace and tranquility that we visit to help us re-connect. When we return to normality, it helps us draw a sense of that place into our reality.

I believe that it is important for us to have thin places, both spatially and temporally, for us to reconnect.

May we find thin places, may we find perspective, and may we be drawn closer to God.

Have you had an experience like this? Is there a place that you like to go that gives you this sense? If so I would love to hear about it. Leave a comment in the comments section.

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  1. Interestingly, here I am reading your article three years later. I stumbled on this article. Seriously. I have a touch screen computer, and I must have touched something that brought me to your two posts about thin places. Oh, yes, I have experienced them. In Ireland. At the ocean. In my backyard. Your thoughts concerning us being a thin place, this is what stopped me. I will settle in with this thought and idea for a while. Thank you.

    1. Hi Tamera. Thank you for taking the time to read my blogs :-)
      This thought has struck me again also as I have been reading John's Gospel. Specifically the bit where Jesus is at the festival of dedication and talks about himself as the dwelling place of God, and then by extension we become the dwelling place God through His Spirit.
      So much to think about!
      God bless


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