Thin Spaces & The Heaviness Of Glory

When I was a kid, I used to have this recurring dream where I was in a clearing in a forest, and the world was in slow motion.  I saw leaves slowly falling to the ground and insects buzzing placidly around me. 

And the air itself was thick.  It felt like I could feel it surrounding me, and it was more difficult to move through.  I wasn't panicked, though.  It felt wonderful.  I could breathe more deeply, and what I breathed in smelled like flowers and trees. 

That clearing was beautiful.  I can see it still.  And sometimes, I will have that dream again, though not as much as when I was young. 

Stumbling into that clearing in my dream, I would think to myself while dreaming and after waking, "This must be heaven." 

There have been times when I have stepped into clearings like the one from my dream or into other kinds of spaces that felt different.  

One of those spaces was on the steps of a church in Colorado Springs, where I used to ride my bike in seventh grade.  I would sit on those steps to watch the sun begin to set behind the mountains.  The air felt thick then, too. 

Or a field behind Christ Church Cathedral in Oxford, England. 
And a rest area in New Mexico.  
Also, the porch of my cabin at a Benedictine monastery in California. 

The other day I was reading John Koenig's Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows and found this entry that prompted this reflection: 
adj. feeling the haunted solitude of extremely remote places--a clearing in the forest, a windswept field of snow, a rest area in the middle of nowhere--which makes you feel like you've just intruded on a conversation that had nothing to do with you, where even the gravel beneath your feet and the trees overhead are holding themselves back to a pointed, inhospitable silence.  

Koenig creates words that describe emotions that we don't have words for.  In this case, he perfectly captures the feeling I felt in my dreams and countless other spaces where the air was heavy and felt... otherworldly. 

There's a word in Hebrew that corresponds to wildred.  It's the word kovod, which essentially means the "heaviness of glory."  The moments in Scripture where kovod is mentioned generally are connected to people who experience the glory of God in an unlikely space. 

Moses and the burning bush come to mind, or the angels appear to the shepherds on the night of Jesus' birth.  It might sound like this in English: "the glory of the Lord shone round about..." 

Come to think of it, all of the places where I've experienced kovod were also marked by a certain kind of light---the "golden hour" of dusk, perhaps, or the dawn of a new day.  

And every single time, I could feel something different in the air around me.  I was breathing in glory with every breath I took.  

I think those moments and spaces intersect our reality with God's.  They are "thin spaces" where the distance between heaven and earth is made closer for some reason, and we just happen to be there to see it.  

Those moments are when I have felt in my bones that God is near.  I wish they would last forever, but they don't.  The moments fade, and all that I am left with is the memory of them, which is powerful enough.  

You may have felt something similar in your life.  Or maybe you long to feel it.  Here's all the wisdom I have on this: 

When I experienced those spaces, I  have also been ready to do so.  I've been sad and sorry.  I've been filled with peace.  I've been praying to experience God.  I've been actively surrendering because I couldn't think of anything else to do.  

Or I felt so broken I didn't think my life or world would ever be better. 

I'm learning that the mystery of God's presence is elusive and frustrating but also unbelievable and transformative.  It's both near and far away.  

And sometimes the presence of God is just around the next bend, through those trees a few paces away, on the side of the road you're on, or right in front of you.  

May you discover the thin places around you.  May you discover the overwhelming heaviness of God's glory and know that you are well met in whatever state you come to God.  

And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.  


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