Thin Spaces


I heard about the concept of thin spaces a while ago. The story goes like this. Native Americans believed there were certain places where the spiritual world was more available. If you wandered to one of these locations, you were more in-tune with the spirit. They called these ‘thin spaces.’ Somehow, the spiritual world came alive because you were closer and more aware of its presence. I thought that sounded beautiful and not so different from what we experience as Christ-followers.

Turns out, geography matters quite a bit in Scripture. There are certain locations people sojourn to in order to hear from God. One that is fairly prominent is the mountain. Moses hikes up one to receive the ten commandments. Elijah hears God in the wind while hanging on the side of one. And Jesus and the disciples experience the transfiguration while marching up one.

This past weekend we attended winter camp in the mountains. I thought about what it meant to be in a ‘thin space.’ Camp felt like that. You left every distraction behind and simply quieted your soul. The cell phone stops working, the worries of life down the mountain are set aside, and you walk in this new found quietness.

The mountain beckons you to come and listen.

We had a few moments throughout the weekend where we spent ‘quiet time’ with God. There is nothing like quiet time on the mountain. I felt like Elijah, sitting in silence, listening for God. He wasn’t in the fire or the rain, but in the wind. His voice was clear. I longed to simply listen. When you spend much of your time in constant noise, you forget how freeing it is to be silent.

It’s refreshing to hear from God like this. It’s feels like talking to an old friend. You realize thin spaces are medicine for your soul.

The entire weekend I wondered how to create more ‘thin spaces’ in my life. The experience on the mountain was so rich and so grand, I wanted to capture it and have it every day. But that would not be wise. There is a reason thin spaces don’t exist everywhere. Thin spaces are special moments–they are mountaintop experiences. Life, however, is not solely lived on the mountain. You have to go back to the valley. We also need encounters with God down here. Both are important for our spiritual life.

Throughout Scripture, when people travel to thin spaces–mountains, deserts, open seas–usually it means something significant is going to happen in their life. A mountaintop experience is followed by a major change or a revelation from God. They didn’t happen every day, but when they did, you better pay attention.

Maybe that is still the point of thin spaces. They are reserved for those special encounters when God is offering new insights or directions for your life. We need them every once in a while. Camp is a thin space for me. When I go to the mountain, I leave distractions behind.

I’m still amazed when I hear from God like this. My heart overflows as I quiet myself and listen. His voice is direct and clear, as if he’s softly speaking in the wind.

Question: Where are your thin spaces?

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