The Thin Places
Some years ago, I paid a visit to a homebound church member, who I hadn't seen in a while.
We chatted for a bit, but then she suddenly blurted out: "You know I died once." And then she asked, "Do you want to know what I saw?"
The lady told me that a few years earlier, her heart had stopped during the middle of a surgery, and she was technically dead for a few minutes.
She told me that she floated above her body for an instant, and then she found herself standing in front of a long, wooden garden fence. She walked along the fence, and after a few moments, she found a hole in the fence and looked through it.
What she saw defied her imagination. On the other side of the fence was the most beautiful garden she had ever seen. It was filled with colors, beautiful scents, the sounds of birds and incredible light.
She told me that the light was the most beautiful thing of all. It didn't come from the sun, she said, but it radiated softly over everything. It brought out all of the contrasts in the garden, filling it with a golden glow.
As my church member spoke, my heart began to pound with excitement. I had seen that kind of light before--only I was wide awake.
Years before, I had found myself overwhelmed by the beauty of an incredible garden in Oxford England. It was during a magic hour of the day and the light simply seemed to emanate from some supernatural place, filling the garden with a golden glow.
I remembered feeling like the world around me had fallen away and the air I was breathing was thick with glory and holiness. I found myself wishing with all my heart to be there forever.
It felt like God was in that place. Or at the very least, the space between this world and the kingdom of God was so very, very thin.
In the Buddhist tradition, those kinds of moments are described as "suchness."
I'm discovering that as Christians we also have rich and beautiful ways to talk about those thin spaces and places in our lives when we feel the presence of the Divine so acutely.
And when we begin to take these moments seriously, to feel them deeply, to give them their proper place in our theology, we can also find that we will have new ways to understand God, too.
Theologian Marcus Borg once wrote:
A theology that takes mystical experiences seriously leads to a very different understanding of the referent of the word "God." The word no longer refers to a being separate from the universe, but to reality, a "more," a radiant and luminous presence that permeates everything that is.
My prayer today is that you and I might have opened eyes, and willing hearts. I pray that we might experience more of God in the world. I pray that we might experience glory, beauty, and light.
I pray that the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ would be with you now and always. Amen.