Surprised By Joy & Thin Places

I just heard of this concept "Thin Places"--where the veil between the supernatural world and the natural world is easily pierced. While it seems to be a part of so-called "Celtic Spirituality," it is happily reminiscent of the kind of thing fairy-tales and some poetry capture, that the world is charged with the glory of God, that the supernatural and natural are intertwined, and God around every corner.

Now, "thin places" officially refer to locations like the Giant's Causeway in Ireland where one is supposed to be able to encounter the supernatural more than in, say, the metro station. But you have to go there to encounter the supernatural. To the contrary, fairy-tales seem to indicate that ever natural thing can be a portal into the supernatural--puddles, mirrors, keys, bread, coffee, "the bare branch against the sky" (to borrow a phrase from Sheldon Van Auken). It is kind of interesting to think of all the ways one can encounter the wonderful, like this puddle at right. Some cross between Mary Poppins and a naiad.

This seems more incarnational, and a theology to explain it can be found in C. S. Lewis' Surprised By Joy. Lewis' work is the ultimate source for understanding that suffering which is desirable, the encounter with the wonderful, the beautiful, the noble, the permanent, the fresh, which is fundamentally some encounter with God. He had these experiences all his life and they left him dissatisfied with the mediocre.

Mother Teresa noted in Heart of Joy that desire lies at the heart of the search for God, "At bottom," she wrote. "I have to really want it." And Lewis describes so well how even desire is God's gift via the world He has given us to experience. If you don't know what Lewis is talking about, maybe you should pick up Surprised By Joy. And if you've ever experienced nameless longing, but a longing you want, ever preferred to be searching and dissatisfied, rather than pleased with the mundane, Lewis puts a name to this fundamental human experience. Get Surprised By Joy here.



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