You may recall, Jennie Weeks, Liz Curtis Higgs and I are leading a pilgrimage to Ireland the end of September. The theme we have chosen for our journey is “Celtic Spirituality.” This ancient form of reverence for God’s presence is embedded in the history and the many stories found in the saints of Ireland. Included in our reflection will be the consideration of various spiritual practices. One exercise in particular is the practice of discerning and recognizing the “thin places” in one’s life.
A thin place can be a geographical spot, such as the proverbial “mountain top” experience where a new perspective on life is given and where the veil of heaven seems to open and appear for a moment here on earth. Certainly “thin spaces” can be found externally in nature walks but they are also revealed internally when time, space and memory seem to intersect.
Thin places provide a way to integrate life with God. That means all of life. Often, we live simply in the present, day-to-day, and hour after hour, minute by minute. We do silly things like waste time, kill time, or when stressed and hassled we try and beat the clock. We leave the past behind by somehow believing the present alone will chart our future.
So, thin places enter our life not to necessarily to jar us but gently open us, make us aware, attentive and discerning of ultimately our life with God. The picture above may not mean much to you but it is a thin place for me. I share this picture of Mary and me recently standing in front of Colonel Ben Tallmadge’s house in Litchfield, Connecticut. It is for me more than a picture, or a dream coming true. As a thin place, it touched my soul.
Many of you may not know, my middle name is “Tallmadge.” I have heard about Colonel Tallmadge all my life. If you happened to watch the AMC cable TV show, Turn: Washington Spies, or read the book that Brian Kilmeade (FOX News) wrote entitled: George Washington’s Secret Six: The Spy Ring that Saved the American Revolution, they all feed the current popularity and interest in Ben Tallmadge and his secret operative work. With a handful of spies, he organized intelligence reports for his Commander of the Continental Army, George Washington. Of course, it makes for a wonderful cable TV series and a page-turning book but the fact of the matter is the man, Colonel Ben Tallmadge is the real deal.
Our family holds dearly the name “Tallmadge.” In fact, our eldest son, was named Ben Tallmadge Jennings. Our youngest grandson is named Henry Tallmadge Jennings. And the name appears through countless cousins and new generations. This is not a story, however, about genealogy but it is a reminder both of the past and the future. Standing in front of the Ben Tallmadge house was more than visiting a historical home.
Standing there, brought time, memory and space together. All too often, we compartmentalize and live a life of efficiency based only on chronological time. A thin space draws back the curtain between heaven and earth and allows God’s time—eternal time—to break through and provide us with the fullness of life with God who is surrounded by angels, archangels and all the company of heaven. Take time and experience a thin space in your life.