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Archive for the ‘The Spiritual Life’ Category

Walking on the beach is good for my soul.  There’s something simultaneously calming and energising about the vastness of the ocean, the constancy of the horizon, the rhythm of the waves.  I love the various textures, temperatures, and firmnesses of the sand under the soles of my feet and the warmth of the sun on my shoulders.  The salt spray is like a whiff of smelling salts, snapping my senses out of the slumber of the mundane to peak attention.  Light and wonder flood into my being, driving out disquietude. 

On a recent holiday, I made sure I enjoyed the rejuvenation of the beach every morning and evening.  One evening, the rain clouds threatened overhead.  I didn’t want to be caught in a squall, but nor did I want to miss my evening constitutional .  Having enjoyed nearly a whole week of perfect Queensland weather, I thought the overcast skies might dampen my beach walking experience.  That concern proved to be unfounded.

After walking five minutes or so, I paused to check the sky.  The beauty spread before me struck me with such overwhelming power, I gasped and choked back sobs.  To the west over land the sky was heavy with foreboding storm clouds, while the pale sky over the sea was a misty watercolour wash.  The setting sun illuminated the heavens, casting an umbra of lilac and mauve over wet sand, rocks and dunes. Pools of water left by the receding tide glistened with purple light.  Time seemed to stop and the din of the world fell silent, except for some faint hum.  Was everything was pulsating with glory, or was I imagining it? 

I related this experience to a colleague and he told me about the Celtic spiritual concept of  “thin places.” In Celtic theology, thin places are locations either in nature or in places of worship where people sense God’s presence most strongly.  It is where the visible world and the invisible world verge and where people encounter the divine in a tangible, unforgettable way.

I wonder if thin places are serendipitous by nature, and if that is part of their wonder, or if you can purpose to find them. Ancient texts implore us to draw near to God, promising He in turn reciprocates. Could it be that in the thin places, God is the One who initiates, suddenly drawing near, perhaps simply to delight in our surprise–and maybe to enlarge our hearts?

I must have happed upon a thin place on that tempestuous evening last month.  Recollecting the event summons up all of the associated emotions; I still tear up, a fact that amazes and stirs me.  My husband told me of a similar experience some thirty-five years ago when he was surfing on a beautiful winter day.  Even after so many years, he could recall every fine detail: colours, smells, even down to the buzzing of bees in nearby hives.  I like the Celtic explanation of thin places–moments when God’s glory is most lucid to our dim human eyes.

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