Here’s a short video I made yesterday in the square. Happiness all around.
Twenty years ago I started the practice of spending several hours each New Year’s Day with my grandmother. With a tripod and video recorder in hand I’d ask her questions for hours — the kind of questions you often wonder about long after loved ones are gone. Together, in a sense, we were preserving history.
Well into our visit one afternoon I asked her this simple question: “When was a time when you felt closest to God?”
She told a story about coming home from work one afternoon and working in her strawberry patch. “I was pulling weeds and picking berries and then there was just this feeling when I was overcome with peace — like a light came over me. I’d never felt it before and I’m not sure I’ve felt it since,” she said.
That was it. That was her story.
I’d expected something so much more colorful and wisdom-filled from this octogenarian I loved and respected so much. But that was it, and she was perfectly content with her reply.
Like so many in our agrarian family, granny sensed God’s presence when she was on her knees and her hands were in the dirt. She believed sincerely that we never owned the land. We were just God’s temporary caretakers.
My grandmother’s thin place was in the garden, and all these years later I identify with the simplicity of her answer. It need not be complicated.
Going places usually gets something on my mind. This “thin place” notion has permeated so many thoughts since Dana and I arrived in Santiago de Compostela two weeks ago. I first read about it as an ancient Celtic belief mentioned in Father Kevin Codd’s book, To the Field of Stars where he elaborates on the ideas and beliefs of some that there is a thinner realm between earth and heaven in certain places.
I don’t necessarily believe in this idea as a physical property, but in a spiritual sense it’s undeniable. There are times and places when we feel closer to God than others. How can this be, and what makes it so? After spending considerable time here in three out of the last four years, I know this is one such place, not because of where it is, but rather because of what it creates.
Watch someone as they conclude the final steps of a five hundred mile pilgrimage across some forty days. You will not see ego, pride, or braggadocio. Hugs and warm, lasting embraces replace high fives.
Much more evident is gratitude, humility, and tears of thanks. I get to watch this almost every day and it’s incredible.
It’s as if all guard comes down here. If but for the moment, we find the truest sense of self.
Watching I inevitably wonder, why can’t it be this way all the time?
I’m also focused on this idea of walking. So many places in the bible we find references to walking out our faith, or walking alongside God, or walking by faith, not by sight. It’s clear, especially in the new testament that walking was important to Jesus. Our life of learning and understanding more about God involves “walking” beside him. He does not pull, nor does he push, but He wants us to walk with Him. His invitation is, come along.
In a sense we’re on a pilgrimage to God’s kingdom. As we walk and listen I think we become more sensitive to God’s present reality in our lives. We’ll take detours, we’ll get lost at times, and we’ll learn from those missteps. But the goals is to just keep walking.
Where is your thin place?