A couple of weeks ago, I had the joy of spending a few days on retreat at a fantastic retreat centre called The Bield. I would highly recommend putting aside some time to go there yourself if you ever get the opportunity. And no, before you ask, I’m not on commission!
If you’ve ever been on a retreat yourself, you’ll know it’s a good idea to have a specific verse or a Bible passage to focus on during the time you’re there. Nothing really came to mind beforehand and I was feeling a bit stumped at first. But then at the morning service, this verse really jumped out at me and stuck in my head over the following days. It’s taken from the Message version of the Bible, and is Jesus’ response to a religious leader who he was having an encounter with: “You’re almost there, right on the border of God’s kingdom” (Mark 12:32-34).
I absolutely loved that phrase, and the sense that we can be hovering right on the very border of God’s kingdom, even when we’re stuck here on this physical earth. Sometimes, that border feels a lot closer to us than at other times. When I was wandering around the stunning grounds of The Bield without a big To Do list staring me in the face, it was a lot easier to sense the nearness of God’s kingdom. You might have heard people talk about ‘liminal places’ before. The word ‘liminal’ comes from the Latin word for threshold, which is another way of thinking about a border area. They are places where the boundary between earth and heaven seems much more stretched, and people have a strong sense of God’s presence there. Think of sites with an ancient Christian heritage like Iona or Lindisfarne. People also call these kinds of locations ‘thin places’, because it feels like a much smaller gap between heaven and earth.
Not everyone has the same experience of course. We all have our own personal ‘thin places’ where we sense the closeness of God’s invisible kingdom more than at other times. For me, that can often be when I’m up in the mountains and gazing in awe at the beauty of God’s incredible creation. Or standing out at night under a vast sky full of stars. The important thing is to make time and space to find your own ‘thin place’, where you can draw near to the border of God’s kingdom. That’s not always easy for us to do in today’s fast and noisy world, with so many distractions pressing in on us all the time. For me, it takes a conscious effort to set aside the time in my diary, turn off the notifications on my phone and simply wait on God to reveal Himself. But I’d urge you to try and find your own ‘thin place’ where you can sense the closeness of God’s kingdom and find spiritual renewing and refreshing. Please do feel free to get in touch if you would like to ask any questions or talk about how to schedule your own retreat.