Christian Theists are those with this belief in parallel universes. One universe consists of rock, and glass, and steel, and clothes, and food, and wrestling, and spaghetti, and scented candles, and perfume, and things we can see, feel, hear, taste, and touch.
But another universe consists of angels and sinister spiritual forces and somewhere out there, maybe even closer than we think, but somewhere in another dimension, there are places called Heaven and Hell.
And we can experience what I would call “thin places” between these two universes, where these two worlds merge together more so than they do at other times in empirical terms.
Philip Yancey writes about these times in our lives. “The time I snorkled on a coral reef and suddenly flashes of color and abstract design flitting around me became a window to a Creator who exults in life and beauty. Or the time my wife forgave me for something that did not merit forgiveness – that too became a window, allowing a startling glimpse of divine grace.” “I have these moments, but soon toxic fumes from the material world seep in. Sex appeal! Power! Money! Military might! (Finding God…).” Our “thin places” get thick again.
There is a certain kind of Biblical writer who experienced these thin places, who were especially in tune with God’s whispers, whispers of love in ancient forgotten dusty places. They experienced these “thin places” and wrote about them. They heard the voice of God echo through human experiences and needs and they journaled about these experiences, and even penned songs and poems and prophecies that reflected what they were hearing. They heard the voice echoing in the every day and they wrote down what they heard and experienced. They are called Psalmists. Psalms help us to recognize God’s voice in the everyday. There’s a plurality of voices in the Psalms. In them, we hear the voices of the communities out of which they came and the voices of the writers who wrote them. They contain voices of celebration and of oppression and of protest and of wisdom and of service and of love and romance and beauty and of righting the wrongs in the world. But in, with, and through all this, there is another voice that is heard. The divine voice. God whispers. And His voice echoes through the text, down through the years, into our present day. It’s a voice that whispers in our thin places, ” Psalm 46:10 “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
I have experienced several “thin places” in my life. I will never forget those times. It could be a scene from a movie, a song at a symphony, a painting in a museum, a panoramic view of a mountain vista, a love note from a spouse, a forgotten poem on a dusty book shelf – but in these locations a word was spoken, and I heard.
I was reading a 48 chapter book not long ago, and every chapter has a number and then goes right into the content. Only two of these 48 chapters have an excerpt from a poem after the chapter number. One of those chapters in this book has an excerpt from a poem by Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Here’s what it said: “Earth is crammed with heaven and every bush aflame with God. But only those who see take off their shoes.” That poem just filleted me. If we only began to listen, to pay attention, we would hear and see things – God-whisperings, and all the world would be holy ground.
We are always looking elsewhere for God – the great and strong wind that rips mountains apart. “Show me some supernatural revelation of your power, then I might believe you and hear you out.” “Shake this earth at its foundation so that people around the world could feel Your power. Then we might believe in You and serve You and listen to what You have to say.” “Flash flames across the heavens and consume the wicked, then you’ll have our attention.”
But God says, “No. I’d rather just whisper in the everyday in life’s thin-places.” God simply wants to be right where we are at every moment in gentle whisper. The voice of God is all around you. God is not a silent God. God is speaking to us all the time in everything through everyone. It takes a lifetime for us to really understand that God is right in front of us. Most of our lives are spent looking, straining to see and hear God in the cloud, through the miracle, behind the mist, beyond the dark. But it is when we face God in one another, in creation, in the present moment, that the real spiritual journey begins (with help from Chittister).
Thin-places is about encountering God in the places where we usually ignore Him: like at an art museum, or in a fitness center or gymnasium, or a hospital birthing room, in a theater, at an opera, on vacation in the mountains, in a combine in the fields, or on the blog of an atheist. It’s about hearing God even while you may be in a place that you shouldn’t be, like the bed of a stranger or while sitting in divorce court or while cruising for drugs.
What is the gentle, quiet voice of God whispering to you in your thin-place?
“Why don’t you stay and work things out?”
“Forgive him. Let her go free.”
“Lead your family. Help them on their spiritual journey.”
“Surrender your broken life to Me.”
“Turn away from your lovers, your addiction, and let Me love you.”
“Use your resources for kingdom gains.”
“Serve your neighbor.”
“Don’t judge your co-worker; become their friend.”
“Go have this difficult conversation.”
“You’re being selfish and are afraid that someone is going to get more attention than you.”
Listen for the whisper.