Here I am in an empty church. In it, between the rows of pews, on the tile floor, under the silent cross, I walk along a boundary, a place in between heaven and earth. The Celts called it thin space….The church calendar calls into consciousness the existence of a world uninhabited by efficiency, a world filled with the excessiveness of saints, ashes, smoke, fire; it fills my heart with both dread and hope. It tells of journeys and mysteries, things “seen and unseen,” the world of the almost known. It dreams impossibilities: a sea divided in two, five thousand fed by a loaf and two fishes, a man raised from the dead.
– Nora Gallagher
Things Seen and Unseen: A Year Lived in Faith
It seemed as though every few breaths had to be wrestled quietly to keep exhales from becoming tears. I don’t think tears of any kind of sadness, although some seem wrapped together with a letting go of things that no longer fit but were desperately and perfectly holy when they once did. Others pregnant with promises that are only clear today after all this time of begging for clarity. Others coated in laughter of flying monkeys and brave children.
After being on the road––or in the air––for nearly a month, I returned to the desks and sessions and meetings and paperwork and conference calls of the work week last Monday. With the promise of daylight savings time still a terribly long week away, I traveled back from exhilarating speaking and learning with stellar servants in Seattle and Memphis and the slow and holy days of the beach with lifelong and new friends, to the pounding of alarms in the still-dark mornings of my own still room.
The threat would be, of course, that the magic only happens when things are outside of the routine. Only with toes buried in the sand and waves ruining the back pages of novels do we cross into the thin spaces. Only with lecture halls and presentations and learning credits pending do we feel the rush of the practice and the theory. Only with the frantic boarding runs do we surmise that we are living something exciting.
But then, on a Monday morning as regular as any other, the shower makes us look a little more alive than we feel, the coffee makes us a little friendlier in a few short moments, and the first meeting, the first client, the first conference call reminds us that we love what we do and the people we get to do it with.
And the thin space becomes so thick we can taste it and name it and break it as if it were in itself that holy meal.
So today, a week later, with more travel on the edge of the next few days, I’m giving thanks for a week of clients, a week of paperwork, a week of surprise parties and the lies they require, a week of out of town guests and in town friends over drinks.
So today, a week later, I find myself at the altar, imagining that table that spreads all the way to family in Nicaragua and all the way to family in Cape Town, and all the way to family who have already moved a little closer to something better on the other side of time, and I was wrestling breaths in order to exhale without bursting into tears. Tears of letting go and holding on. Tears of the promise that I have no idea what I’m doing, but somehow I feel alive while I’m doing it and I feel loved getting to do it with such incredible people, and I feel honored doing in on behalf of those so often not welcomed at the table.
So today, a week later, I find myself at the altar recognizing that the thin space has become so thick at this particular moment in time, that I let it win and with the tears that hit the hands that hold the bread and the wine, I give thanks that he withholds no good thing from us.
Not a thing.
Pine Tree Dr.