My housemate has been away for the past three weeks, and I have got to know parts of myself better that I thought I would.
As somewhat of an introvert I enjoy my time alone. I like coming home to an empty kitchen each night. I blast music in the mornings and talk back to podcasts while I wash my face. Years of living in a house of ten made me welcome empty living rooms and only the spinning of my washing machine to distract me.
I spent my days studying. This semester has not been kind to me, so I locked myself away with my nespresso, determined to make my tired brain just learn.
I emerged from exams empty. I felt like my brain was made of cotton wool. It felt like years since I’d actually spoken to anyone outside of ten hours of work per week.
I think maybe depression has let it self into my bed again in a way it hasn’t in quite a bit. I’m strangely lonely but also really don’t have the mental energy to do anything to rectify that.
For a few days, I hiss and spit at God. I never learn, that is one thing I can guarantee about myself.
“why would you leave me here?”
“why won’t you speak to me?”
etc etc, the usual.
I truly believe that the fact that I am still standing, decidedly not struck by lighting, is all the proof I need that YAHWEH is a merciful god.
However, this is not what I meant to talk about. At least not entirely. I found another small answer that I will add the collection of mercies that I like to forget about.
So instead, I will remember the thin places. Sarah Bessey wrote about the death of Rachel Held Evans, how her hospital room became a thin place, and that the interaction of the divine and temporal are often unexpected.
Thin places are a concept from Celtic Christianity. I won’t pretend to know all that much about their history or significance, but I understand the concept enough to let it become a phrase in my own internal vocabulary.
When the presence of God, of something holy, (whatever that even means, as if it can become words) is strangely close, that is a thin place.
Gothic Architecture tried to create a sort of thin place with their stained glass windows and bright, airy sanctuaries. When I took communion two years ago in the tiny church in my home town that building with is hand built pews became a thin place.
A thin place, at least in my experience, is rarely where you would expect.
I sat for an hour an empty wing of an art gallery the day I told my psychologist that I didn’t think I could stay alive right now. That room became a thin place as I cried about things I could not speak of. A taxi took me to hospital that evening. I spent much of the next month crying until I felt I would vomit and yet that was a thin place.
I’ve learnt to grit my teeth a bit more in the years since. Perhaps this is for the better, I take my medication to try to keep my foresight on and care about science and art and maybe growing old.
But I have hidden from the thinness.
I don’t write this as any sort of victory shout. I will wake up tomorrow still confused about what on earth any of this means–What my faith should look like, why my unbelief grows somehow both stronger and weaker when I look beyond my bedroom walls.
The thin places in my life have so often been grief soaked. They come to me when the girl I am-was-will be– has given up. Sometimes deliberate surrender, more often on collapse.
Trying to untangle the grace of God from what feels like injustice is confusing and terrifying. I am afraid to question YAHWEH, I feel like I can so infrequently find myself within religious practice, I pick and choose and that feels like a sort of blasphemy directed at my upbringing.
As I grow older, as time moves quickly on, as my own Damascus road falls further into the past, I become quieter. I don’t know. I do not know.
And in that is a sort of thin place, I think.
I will continue to bite the hand that saves me I’m sure. I will hide from my Father Mother Advocate God. And then there will be a thin place, and distance between my tired-aching-shame-wracked body and the holy and true will shrink, and maybe I will let myself listen.
Do not let me forget the beauty of a thin place.