Thin Places: An Ancient Phrase with Biblical Roots and Contemporary Fruit

Over the past several years, I have been intrigued by the phrase thin places. I spent some time trying to understand this phrase and concluded it is an ancient phrase with biblical roots and contemporary fruit. Thin places are where heaven comes close to earth. The phrase has been around for centuries made popular by Celts who associated the phrase with a location and by Celtic Christians who associated the phrase with the infusion of the Divine presence.[1] Today people who consider themselves spiritual view certain monuments, ruins, and landscapes as locations for special encounters where heaven seems to touch earth…thin places.

The thin places concept stirs up many biblical images for me. Places where God’s presence was manifested on earth in special ways. A partial list includes the Garden of Eden, Moses and the burning bush, the cloud, the pillar of fire, the Tabernacle, Elijah on the mountain, and the Temple. However, the ultimate place where heaven intersects with earth is in Jesus.[2] Jesus is heaven coming down to earth. Jesus is “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature” Hebrews 1:3. Heaven meeting earth in its finest.

Yet, the concept of heaven coming to earth did not end with Jesus coming to earth. Jesus left His Holy Spirit to indwell those who trust in Jesus as their Savior. “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” 1 Corinthians 3:16. So in each person who has trusted Jesus as his/her Savior is where heaven has come to earth or a thin place. I think thin space is a more accurate phrase. It is not a location, but a space where God’s presence is noticed. Believers in Christ embody the thin spaces where God can be noticed.

As I thought about this beautiful, rich phrase I was astounded that as a believer in Christ I have the opportunity to be a thin space, where heaven meets earth in every moment. I desire and long to be that thin space constantly. I asked myself, “What does a life lived as a thin space look like?”

It looks like what Jesus’ life looked like. A life full of grace and truth (John 1:14) which is the Greek translation of abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness from Exodus 34:6-7. A life that is filled with the Holy Spirit when difficult circumstances come. Difficult circumstances such as ungracious people, wrong doings, challenging personalities, long-term trials, or time crunches. These are potential times when earth darkens heavens’ brilliance in me.

I want to “shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life” Philippians 2:15-16. I want to “open my mouth with wisdom and the teaching of kindness” to be on my tongue Proverbs 31:26. I want to let no corrupt talk or thoughts come from me but instead words and thoughts that are good for building up (Ephesians 4:29). I want to be that vine that bears much fruit (John15:8). All these deep desires will only come to fruition by God’s grace. As I walk through my days, mindful of embodying where heaven meets earth, depending on His power for enablement, I will be that thin space that directs others to see His greatness, goodness, and glory. Thin spaces is and ancient phrase with biblical roots and contemporary fruit. How can you and I live out the truth that we are thin spaces, where heaven meets earth, in the days to come? 

For your consideration: Mark D. Roberts’ blog, “Thin Places: A Biblical Investigation,” Patheos, 2012, accessed January 25, 2021, https://www.patheos.com/blogs/markdroberts/series/thin-places/.

Tracy Balzer’s book, Thin Places: An Evangelical Journey into Celtic Christianity, Abilene, TX: Leafwood Publishers, 2007.

[1] Lacy Clark Ellman, “Thin Places, Holy Spaces: Where do You Encounter God?” A Sacred Journey, 2021, accessed January 25, 2021, https://www.asacredjourney.net/thin-places/.   

[2] Jon Collins, “Heaven and Earth,” Bible Project, 2021, accessed January 25, 2021, https://bibleproject.com/explore/video/heaven-and-earth/.

PJ Beets is passionate about encouraging women and children through the Scriptures and life to see the compassionate God who redeems the rejected by acceptance, the silenced by expression, the labored by grace, and the lonely by love in order to set them free to serve in His ordained place and way for them individually and corporately. She has served the Lord through Bible Study Fellowship and her home church in various capacities with women and children. Upon turning fifty, she sought the Lord on how He would have her finish well which began her journey at Dallas Theological Seminary. She has a Master of Arts in Biblical Studies as well as a Doctor of Educational Ministry in Spiritual Formation, both from from DTS. PJ is married to Tom, has three children, and six grandchildren.

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