As part of my Baptist Ministry training I spent 2 weeks on placement at the Northumbrian Community Mother house. I was really excited about going there as for some time my husband and I had been using their Celtic Daily Prayer Book and this had been really helpful to us. I loved the way that they spoke of Availability to God and others, and intentional Vulnerability. This seemed to encapsulate all that was precious to me and had been for a long time, so in many ways it felt like coming home.
Sadly the reality of this visit didn’t match my expectations. Maybe it was where I was at personally. I found the experience to be a cross between being stuck in the Big Brother House – where I longed for my eviction, and expecting Reginald Iolanthe Perrin and his self help community to come sweeping through the door any minute, and I looked forward to sex with David Harris Jones (the very timid sex therapist at Perrins!)
I really tried to make the most of my time there. I mucked in with the routine of the day, cleaning, praying, gardening, quiet times alone. I met some wonderful people who were fellow travellers for retreat and healing and I went on the pilgrimage to Holy Island. I think one thing that really got to me about my time there was it was two weeks without any children. Two weeks with people taking themselves far too seriously and I longed to hear the laughter of children and just have a mad half hour. While I was there I learned that I really valued normal life much more than I had previously realised. Suddenly the things that were missing – the noise of children, Radio 2, the ringing phone, everyday routine of family coming and going, were more precious than ever before.
I did my best not to be “Sister miss-a-blessing”, but one thing that got under my skin was this constant talk of “Thin Places!”. The understanding that God was more assessable, more available in certain places – Lindisfarne being one such place. Everything within me was struggling with this crazy theology (as I saw it). Surely this was utter madness to designate certain places as “thin” – as if God was just sat there waiting and we go to him there without an appointment! This drove me to distraction as it was completely contrary to my firm belief based on Psalm 139 where the Psalmist asks:-
“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me”.
I don’t do thin places – for I have come to believe that God is always available, always around, always here. I do not have to cross some ancient walkway to find him, to be honest I don’t have to move from this chair. As I sit here typing today’s reflection about my passions and my irritabilities suddenly … Here he is again. Love you Lord!
Lord today – may I ever be aware of you on my left and on my right.
Jesus – during this Lenten season – may I continue to find you in the normal things of life – all of which are a gift from you
Lord hear us – Lord graciously hear us!