The Irish talk of thin spaces—space where the sacred breaks into everyday life, space where the divine is felt. Thinness is not reserved to physical space exactly. Yes, I’ve been in churches where the divine drips from altar and ambo. But I’ve also met thin people whose gentleness and peace reflects the stillness of God. And I’ve experienced thin moments where I was attuned to the heartbeat of Christ—the most significant movement of the universe, as one of my college professors would say it.
This has been a summer of thinness. Grief is one of the thinnest spaces a person can experience; God is so abundantly present. At the same time, God is utterly absent. Somehow this absence is thin too. The emptiness is a chasm waiting to be filled, an opportunity for wholeness and grace.
It took three months for me to recognize how thin this summer has been. It was the day after my cousin Edyn’s baptism. My aunt and uncle’s house was full of people and the chaos that accompanies out-of-town guests. My other cousins—one six years old and the other four—were begging to play video games. My aunt was preparing the casserole that would be dinner. My grandparents were watching television. My mother and uncle were discussing cameras. A few other people were milling about. It was not a time for stillness. I stood in the kitchen with my aunt, watching her work, while I held Edyn for a rare moment when she wasn’t fussing as a result of being held by someone she didn’t know. Her eyes drooped and, amid the noise, she fell asleep. “I’m going to take her upstairs,” I told my aunt.
“Okay. Just put her in the crib. She may fuss, but she’ll put herself back to sleep.”
“No,” I said. “I just want to hold her.”
Edyn was a month old at this point. Tiny. Perfect. Her beautiful round head. Her sweet little newborn lips. Her delicate eyelashes. For two hours, I drank her in. I gently held her little hand. I rocked her and wished good things into her life.
And I knew that it was thin space—that we were not alone.
After my uncle died in May, I started building a stone wall, a protection against hurt. I have been living a season of stoniness. The prophet Ezekiel says that God will take the people’s stony hearts and give them hearts of flesh. I traded in my heart of flesh for one of stone. Stone hearts don’t hurt so much. They don’t beat either. What I’ve learned is that stone is not impervious to thinness. Somehow God sneaks in—while you’re gently rocking a baby or otherwise preoccupied—and reminds you that stones crumble.