Thin Places

I found a thin place that night beneath the stars…alone. It felt like heaven buckled into earth and I existed within both but for a moment.

And another on a deck with the moon hung high over the river. Is it always like this? Is heaven always so exposed from here? No. Not always. Just that night and maybe a few times more.

And I found a thin place in the woods, trees aflame setting fire to my soul.

Yet another in the cemetery, oak bough low, offering to cradle me if but for a moment in the place that birthed the universe.

I’ve witnessed thin places unlocked by a song, as if the notes were the key and the heavens unsecured.

I never knew they had a name until today. I only knew I’d been hunting this sacred space where the barrier between heaven and earth wore thin. As my heart calloused over the summer, I craved evidence that the opaque could also be transparent. As my intimacy with God waned, I desired to sit in a space where the divine leaked through. For moments, minutes, sometimes only seconds, my chase was rewarded. And then it was time to go again—my departure sharing the same moment as the start of another hunt. Like many predators, I found myself hunting in the dark.

“It’s probably Plato we have to credit for our negative views of dark caves. His is a vision of darkness and imprisonment, that place where we remain unable to grasp anything more than shadows, ensnared, yet unable to step out of the night that holds us. The cave is a curse that confines and condemns. 

For the Celtic Christian, the cave was the opposite. From their beginnings in the 5th century, Celtic believers held a strong sense of sacred space, referring to certain places–caves, wells, even friendships–as Thin Places, which is to say, places where the veil between this world and the divine world seems somehow sheer. In these places, God’s glory seems better able to seep through to our awareness.

It is perhaps in this tradition that Irish priest and poet John O’Donohue speaks of the soul as such a place, offering a different take on darkness and conversely, the surprise of blessing in the midst of it. For O’Donohue, the sacred cave of the soul is that place ‘where loss will be made good, where blindness will transform into vision, where damage will be made whole, and where the clenched question will open in the house of surprise…'”

Another poet described the thin places below:

“Thin places, both seen and unseen, where the door between this world and the next is cracked open for a moment and the light is not all on the other side…”

If only I could live in a thin place. If only I could create them, as if fervent prayers were repeated acts of friction fraying thin the threads that separate. Still, for a girl who has been living in the dark, the leaking of light has transformed me in some way. What’s more, the dark has provided fruit—not a fruit admired for aesthetics but consumed for satisfaction.

So I choose to believe these thin places–whether caves, wells, or friendships–exist in my everyday. That the desire to hunt is induced by a divine appetite to sit and fill hollow stomachs…stomaches empty of words and craving experience. And wherever this space is, may it become my home, even if but for a moment as I shower in the leaking light.




See Jill Carattini’s devotion #209 in Zondervan’s NIV Bible for Women

Quotes Sharlande Sledge, “Thin Places.” Nonpublished



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