“Thin Spaces” was a new term to me. In a homily given by a local pastor, he explained the Irish concept of “thin spaces” as being that moment in time where the veil that separates heaven and earth or the material world from the spiritual world seems rather thin. In so many words, I guess, it’s that moment where you say, “oh. Wow. That was very godly.” And I will admit that while I have some experience in the spiritual journey, those moments where it seems there are Divine fingerprints on the window seems few and far between.
“And just whose fault is that?” one could ask. I don’t know. While I am more than reluctant to point my finger to the ceiling …. Because it honestly seems to me He works overtime trying to get humanity’s attention and respect … I don’t like the other choice I’m left with: my fault. But I guess it is. Through lack of adequate personal reflection, many of us lose the learning and grace-filled opportunities of which we are unknowingly in the midst. We get lost in the daily grind of work and home and society. Insert here a mental snapshot of a busy city street where all sorts of people are walking in different directions and taxi’s are beeping and children in strollers are pointing and business people are trying not to bump into other humans while the yammer along in self-important poses on the cell phone. This is the life we know. It’s easy to get stuck here. Until you’re not.
Something bad happened to me a couple of years ago. I was betrayed. And with that betrayal, a big piece of my world became very disinteresting to me. I had to try to turn in to look at the interior damage and try to nurture and heal, if possible. There were days when I didn’t think it was possible. I lost a lot of motivation, and only those closest to me may have seen a piece of the trainwreck that was sitting inside my heart.
That’s why it was incredulous to me when a person in my closest circle asked me directly in front of everyone-that-mattered if I “had any New Year’s resolutions.” I am pretty sure the response that was hoped for was something along the lines of losing weight. Since, even in awkward situations, I prefer to not lie, I responded: “You know, I’m a very superstitious person at heart and I find that when I share my resolutions it kind of takes the steam out of them and I get nothing accomplished.” End of discussion.
My resolutions, actually, were not itemized. They were really a symphony of attitudes that I am trying to get to “play” in a harmonious presentation. Lose weight? I’m not Kate on “This is Us.” I don’t have that kind of self-loathing and complicated psychological scarring. I’m not even as BIG as Kate is. But what I am turning the entire ship of my life towards is far more important than what is on the scale. I have found, by the way, that if I turn my digital scale just two inches to the side diagonally, it renders a score that is three pounds less. Yeah, I like that. But indulge me for a minute, and think of an ocean liner leaving the East Coast for, say, Merry Old England. Do you know that if you adjust the compass just two degrees off on this end of the journey, you won’t get to see the Queen? And for this very reason, I begin my journey of re-aligning my entire life with no undue caution.
I am trying to Listen. I want to be present to the moment. I want to not miss the thing it is I need to be attending to in the middle of what I THINK I’m supposed to be doing. Chew on that for a while.
I began by trying to put some godly order into my environment at home. And as a sincere stab at that, I tackled the proverbial “junk drawer” in my kitchen. That led to cleaning the Island off, and discovering that II threw stuff out. I created a Burn Box and I will be slogging out to the backyard in the spring and lighting that fire with a grateful heart. In the course of attending to the 101 business cards I seem to have accumulated, I pulled out one that belonged to a realtor I had met in the church circles about 15 years ago. I noted it and then filed it.
Imagine my surprise when a couple of days later the very same woman called my work phone looking to speak with someone. I asked her, “Are you the realtor?” She said, “Yes. I am.” I re-introduced myself and we began talking about her ministry of looking out for people who seem to fall between life’s proverbial cracks. She dropped first names only. One of them flagged my attention. I asked her, if that wasn’t by any chance so-and-so who was a former student of mine. She said yes. THEN, unbelievably it was clear why this phone call was happening.
Last year at this time another friend was talking to me and mentioned her niece who lives a few towns over. I asked this woman, “then you probably know that whole pod of kids who hung out together.” She said yes, and that one particular young woman is, how can I say this politely (I can’t): dead. When I first heard it was like getting the wind knocked out of me. Then it became clear why another random person had called my home phone and left me a message with no details. I never returned that call. And so I never knew there was a wake I needed to be at. I always wondered what this young woman died from. Here, a year later, the realtor lady was able to tell me what no one else did: that she passed away from some sort of a seizure relative to her other health issues. I just needed to know that she didn’t hurt herself. Somehow that mattered to me. Now I had closure. A thin space had come and gone.
The next day I was reviewing my adoring fans and friends on facebook. I saw an advertisement of an African American woman standing at the water’s edge with her arms wide open as if she was embracing heaven. She had a wide brimmed white beach hat on. She was wearing a beach dress. She had one of those reminder wristbands on her left wrist. I started to cry. Hard. This exact picture is what is in my head when I think of my friend Denise who passed away in the summer of 2016. She was my beach friend and I looked forward to vacationing with her and our women friends every summer for decades. Now she was gone and I have this big, giant, cumbersome hole in my heart where one of my best friends used to be. To think that the Almighty could use an advertisement on social media to put my mind at ease was, again, a very nice thin space to find myself in. The very next day, it popped up on facebook that it was her birthday. January 4. I’m terrible at remembering birthdays and significant dates, but I remember my people.
The third “Thin Space” was two weeks ago at the checkout line in a grocery store. I was shopping for a senior lady and feeling a bit at the end of my rope until I found myself in line behind a friend who used to work with me. We had a delightful conversation which included me naming the fact that she had been done an injustice by the people who drove her out of a job she loved. She remarked (her Thin Space) that it so happens that working as a companion to a disabled person had become her new full time job and that she loved it. I was glad for her.
I turned and looked at the man behind me for no particular reason at all and then realized I know him and practically shouted, “Steve! How are you?!” He said great – and he looked healthy and well – but his face also registered that he couldn’t remember me. I added, “You bought your dog from me five years ago!” He beamed and said, “do you have any puppies now? Because we want another one!” I advised him that, in fact, we are expecting a litter mid-February. I produced my business card and felt so happy that his cancer was gone, and his dog was so loved by their family.
This situation at the grocery store was not like neighbors bumping into each other at a local grocery store. It is at least 15 miles from my house, and although I go there weekly, the time frame varies. It is almost as if the stars had to line up for these encounters to even happen at all.
I am grateful for the Thin Spaces. I am grateful when I am made aware that the Divine Eye is on me, and that I am His apple. I am grateful that this year is starting out one million times better and more interesting than last year was in its entirety. So I ask you, have you been open to the Thin Spaces? Maybe that is a good resolution for all of us?!