Thursday, February 17, 2005

The Thin Place

I gave a talk at one of the local retirement centers today. They are having a five-week Lenten series for their residents. I was asked to talk about 'pilgrimage' and to show my slides from my renewal time of several years ago. It went well, and was enjoyable, and I was pleased to talk to several of the residents wh0 had been to Iona, Lindisfarne, and even Taize, and were eager to share their experiences (and wishes that they could return) at those special places.

For me, it made me homesick! I was reminded, once again, of how special those few months were, and my longing to return. And while I certainly know that if I did return, that I would not be able to recreate the feelings and experiences of my first visit, the new ones would be just as special, just as powerful, just as healing as the first time.

But it also struck me how easy it was to let the lifestyle I had during that time, and the disciplines I was able to practice, slip through my soul. Of course, I can justify that happening by the mere fact that I was not "working" during those three months, that I was on renewal and re-energizing myself, and circumstances are different now. Here, in the real world of work and stress, it just isn't possible to do those things.

Really? How hard is it to set aside 2-3 periods during the day for silence, for worship, for prayer, for spiritual reading, for prayer walks, for myself? It's not as if I don't have those times (maybe not every day, but on a lot of them) available to me now. I manage to eat 3 times a day (or more!) to keep my body sustained - why not my soul? And I seem to be able to catch TV a couple of times a day to keep my mind informed - why not my spirit? And, after all, even though I was at all those marvelous places, it was not as if someone was "forcing" me to do all those renewal things. I made conscious choices to go to the worship, the prayer, the study, the silent opportunities.

So, was it the difference in physical settings, or was it that I was focusing on those things that could bring me rest, bring me solace, bring me closer to God - instead of focusing on those things that bring me stress, that distract me from God, that cause me to feel burned out?

The rest, the renewal, the 'thin place' I am seeking is really deep within me, if only I am willing to travel there and spend some time.

(c) 2005 Thom M. Shuman

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