Iona, a thin place?
Ah, this is the question I have been trying to answer since we returned home. Does Iona live up to it's reputation as a thin place.
And how does one actually measure that kind of "Thinness," if you will. I'm not sure I am up to giving that question a proper answer, however I have made some observations.
(Pardon all the quotation marks. It's my way of using language in ways it regularly wouldn't be used.)
It did seem that there was a freedom and a kind of "Accelerated" connection with God there. It felt as though he was close and "easily accessible."
The clarity of the things God was saying to me was unmistakable. Each day we took time for quiet reflection and just simple prayer times which didn't feel as though they were "Words hitting the ceilings." Sunday and Monday I took some extended time for prayer and waiting on God. I found the quiet corner in the Abby and spent the afternoon there. It was sweet. There was freedom to communicate with God, and there was clarity as He communicated with me. Clearly and deliberately he unfolded some things from my life that I needed to take time to deal with. As I processed those things and moved through them, there was more that he unfolded before me. It was a time of cleansing and working through old sins and hurts.
That led to a place where we talked of my future work. No great specifics mind you, but enough to be an encouragement for me for this second half of my life.
Then followed a time where I was free to pray for many of you who had asked for prayer. That was a sweet time too. Not having to fight through being able to focus, not easily distracted. As I would begin to pray for you, in my spirit I knew which direction to move for you in prayer. It was as though God and I were having a chat about your needs, and I asked and he heard and led me to ask for more for you. That was a most enjoyable part of the week.
The critic would observe that I had had some of those senses simply due to the fact that I was on a spiritual retreat and had prepared for that, so in that way the closeness of God could be explained away.
I did observe that the locals were amazingly gracious people. Their warmth and willingness to have us on the Island seemed to me to be an indication of something different. It effected me enough to take notice of it.
And the ministries of the various churches on the Island were quite, ...profound I would say. We attended three different churches and their Services, Evensongs, Complines, and Prayer Services. Each one was quite significant for us. There was a freshness to the word of God and the prayers, whether extemporaneous or written down, were very moving and alive to our spirits.
The different men who led the services were gracious, friendly people who warmly embraced us and received us into the services with pleasure. They did not seem to be cranky old farts who hated having to travel to the Island to run a service for the few people who would come by on any given evening.
I observed to Lauralea halfway through the week in a somewhat joking manner, that to date I had yet to observe any used, discarded hypodermic needles or condoms. A regular occurrence in the town I live in. In fact I had not even heard curse words used or an angry exchange between people.
Now I am not naive enough to think that those things don't happen, because they do. But even when seated near the hot kitchens preparing food for the customers and watching wait staff pressed to their limits, I didn't observe anger or volatile language. That was quite different from home, and not necessarily an indication of "Thinness." However, I remember taking notice of it and commenting on it.
I remember when we were leaving the Island, and we were on the bus traveling across the Isle of Mull. A couple of guys got on, sitting near us. After a few moments one of them swore, and I remember how it pierced my spirit. It just cut through with heaviness and darkness. That surprised me.
Again, the critic would easily be able to explain many of these incidents away. However for me they were, or seemed to be significant events.
I have traveled to some valleys and locations here in Canada, and the world, that are just heavy and dark and oppressive. When you arrive in those places it's noticeable to your spirit. The outward signs are usually people fighting, children disobeying and swearing up a blue storm. It feels hard to pray, and to see your words even pierce the sky.
I've been to those places and this island was the exact opposite of that.
Was it a thin place?
Yes, I think it was a thin place.
Even if you throw out my subjective opinions of it being such a place, you still have to deal with the fact that people for thousands of years have found the Island to be a place to connect easily with God. A place where the gap between earth and heaven seems especially, thin.
As the Rev. George MacLeod prayed during his time there: "Invisible we see you, Christ above us, Christ beneath us, Christ beside us."