In one of her books, my favorite author, Shauna Niequist talks about thin places.
Now, before we go any further, let me just say… if you haven’t read every one of Shauna Niequist’s books, stop, do not go any further until you place your order on Amazon. I simply cannot recommend them enough!
Okay, so back to thin places.
Thin places, as she describes them, are this Celtic idea of these places where the distance between the human and the divine is extra thin.
In other words, they’re places where God feels unbelievably close. I love that idea.
I’ve had lots of thin places in my life. The ocean is always a thin place. Something about the vast beauty, the power of it, the twinkle and the sparkle, my feet digging further down into the soft wet sand with every brush of the tide, the consistency of it… staring into the ocean always makes me feel like I’m looking God right in the face — close enough to see the kind wrinkles around His eyes and the way He’s smiling at me like I’m His favorite daughter.
Some of my best prayers have been spoken into the ocean as well. There’s something amazing about standing on the edge of something and either whispering or shouting your deepest hopes, pain, dreams, passions into the void. It’s like the water sweeps up your prayers, and carries them out to sea — like a message in a bottle that’s sure to get where it’s going.
But one of the thinnest places for me is a lookout in Boulder, Colorado called Flagstaff. It always has been.
Flagstaff is one of my favorite things about Boulder. It’s an overlook nestled between the flatirons — a series of flat, beautiful rocks laid gently and powerfully over the mountain that overlooks the town.
The Flatirons are Boulder’s symbol — when you see them, you know you’re close, and there’s this perfect moment as you’re driving in from Denver when you come over a hill and there they are. The mountains with the Flatirons proudly presiding over the town, and then the town itself — the red, tiled rooftops of CU’s campus, and the sandstone buildings that look so perfectly tucked together in the town down below.
Flagstaff is an overlook from up within the Flatirons. You drive (or hike, or bike, but I usually drive), up the windiest road until you’re nestled between them. It’s wilderness all around, an up-close view of these imposing rock structures, and the view is spectacular.
In college I spent as much as I could up there.
And really, Flagstaff was always a thin place for me.
When I’d have a bad day, I’d drive up the winding road and sit in my car overlooking the town to think. I prayed some of my fiercest, most confused, most passionate prayers up there — crying into the pages of my journal as I asked God what to do, where to go from here, what He wanted from me.
Flagstaff is also where I learned some of my favorite things about God in some of my most meaningful conversations with friends.
When we needed some space, or a break, or even if we were just bored, we’d pile into the car, and a few of us would head up the mountain — sitting up there for hours talking about God, and life, and the beautiful and hard ways they intersect.
I learned about community up there, what can happen when people who love Jesus with their whole lives and hearts come together to encourage each other, teach each other, and love each other.
I became better on that mountain, more me, more of who God created me to be. It was a thin place — a gorgeous overlook where I was tucked right up in His lap. Looking up at Him lovingly, asking Him, “God, what do I do from here?”
I don’t live in Colorado anymore, although I come back as often as I possibly can. And every time, after visiting my best friend Kelsey at work, and stealing her away for a quick Bubble Tea date at Lollycup on the Hill, I always head up that windy road to the top of Flagstaff.
Sometimes I have something I need to talk to God about, and so I do. But sometimes I just go to remember all that He did there — all that He taught me in the seasons where that was my sanctuary.
I go, and I’m grateful.
Thin places are all around us, they really are, and they change in different seasons.
One of my thin places here in Nashville is a loop I walk around as often as I can. It’s 3.8 miles, and has several wooden bridges, and you zig zag across the most gorgeous wooded stream. My soul unwinds there, God feels close to me there. It’s one of my thin places these days.
The truth is — God is everywhere. He’s no closer when we’re near the ocean, or at the top of a mountain, or on a walk by a beautiful stream. God is in our breath, and in our hearts, and riding shotgun with the windows down, singing with us to the new Zac Brown Band (at least I always like to think so!).
So thin places aren’t for God’s sake. They’re not a shrine where we go to visit Him, because that’s the only place He can be found.
Thin places are a gift to us — a place where we can shed the busyness of our days, and our minds, a place where we can get away, where the scenery, and the change, and the beauty of the landscape reminds us that God is near, and that He’s right there, ready to talk whenever we are.
What are some of your thin places? Where do you go to have your best moments with God?
If you don’t have a thin place, maybe it’s time to find one! Find a quiet place, a beautiful place, and look up. God’s right there with you, with kind wrinkles around His eyes, smiling down at you — His favorite daughter.
P.S. Have you picked up a free copy of my book, The Lipstick Gospel? If not, I’d love to send you one! It’s the story of how one sorority girl (me!) found God in heartbreak, the Sistine Chapel, and the perfect cappuccino. Click here to download your free copy!