Thin Spaces

Garden-SmallThrough my life thus far, I have encountered numerous thin spaces. You know the kind. Those physical places where God just seems so much tangibly closer.

Ten years ago, Aaron and I lived in the glorious Rocky Mountains of Colorado. And oh how those mountains are a thin space for me. Maybe it’s the thin air, but I can hear God so much more clearly when I’m in the mountains surrounded by his creation. There was one park in particular in Colorado Springs where Aaron and I would go to spend the afternoon thinking, reading, and praying laying on a blanket staring up at the towering Rockies. God called us to start Camp Machaceh during our time living in the mountains and many a conversation about camp happened in that very park. Thin spaces.

Another thin space for me came a few years later. Aaron and I were on a trip with other students from Truett Seminary in Greece. We were following in Paul’s footsteps across the country, and one of our first stops was in Philippi. There walking among the ruins of this ancient city through the very agora where Paul was arrested, I experienced God’s presence so tangibly. It was as if his spirit lingered in this ancient place, and I could almost breathe his spirit deeply into my lungs. A thin space.

And now here I sit in yet another thin space. By the bedside of my mother in law as she transitions from life here on earth to life eternal with Jesus our Savior. And this is perhaps the thinnest of spaces. This space where heaven breaks into our world, our reality and takes a saint home.

God is here. He is very tangibly present with us. He is with Nancy with each breath she takes. He is with each person who squeezes her hand and says “I love you.” He is with each family member and friend as we grieve and say goodbye. He is with us as we read Scripture together and pray. I especially noticed his presence as we sang hymns around her bed tonight. God is with us. His spirit is tangible here. The air oozes with his presence. A very thin space.

One of the names for Jesus is Emmanuel or God with Us. And I can say that I have truly experienced Jesus as God with us over the last few weeks. He is a God who steps into our trials and our sufferings. He doesn’t just watch it from afar and say “There, there. You’ll be ok.” No. Instead he wades right in and sits with us and walks with us through the dark valleys. And tonight as Aaron and I sit and wait with Nancy for her final transition, we know that God is truly with us in this thinnest of spaces and holiest of moments.

 “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty- the one who always was, who is, and who is still to come.” -Revelation 4:8


Hope-CardsmallFor the last few months, God has been inundating me with hope. It’s Aaron’s fault. Late last spring, he informed me that God had laid a vision on his heart for our fall teaching emphasis at church- Hope. And over the course of the summer, that direction was confirmed over and over again, through conversations with students and adults alike. So we plowed forward, reading widely on the topic of hope, preparing to launch our fall teaching series. At the end of August we started Monsters, Zombies, and Things that Go Bump on Wednesday nights. Little did we know we were going to be living this out this fall.

Over the last four years, my mother in law, Nancy, has been battling ovarian cancer. At the end of September she had her fourth surgery to remove a tumor and give her the best chance to prolong her life for another year or two. Two more surgeries, sepsis, weeks in the ICU, and countless procedures later, and we now sit in her room at a hospice facility.

Earlier this week Nancy received a package that contained cards made by children in a relative’s Sunday School class. Most of the cards had carefully written words copied from the board in the classroom. But one little girl named Savannah simply wrote the word Hope and signed her name.

Hope. We toss this word around quite glibly. “I hope I get a pony for Christmas.” “I hope that boy asks me to the dance.” “I hope my mom makes meatloaf and macaroni and cheese for dinner.” We use the word freely and frivolously lowering the true meaning of hope to the same level as wish or desire. But true hope, Christian hope is nothing like making a wish or desiring a specific outcome.

As Christ followers, our hope is rooted in our salvation. Paul reminds the Corinthian church of this in 1 Corinthians 15:50-57. Because of what Jesus did on the cross and through his resurrection, because of his work of restoration, reconciliation, and redemption, we have the hope of an eternity with him. As Paul says, “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15:54-57).

But hope isn’t just for one day at the end of life here on earth. We can also experience the hope Jesus brought through his advent here, right now. Mark Oestreicher defined hope this way: “the faithful confidence that God continues to author a story that moves us from vision to action” (Hopecasting*).

 Hope is the confidence that God is continuing to author a story.

Regardless of circumstance, God is still at work, making beauty out of our messes, leading us and guiding us through the storm, walking us through life’s dark valleys, and celebrating with us in life’s joys. God is at work everywhere.

And we have definitely been experiencing this as a family walking through this dark valley. On the day we rushed back to Fort Worth for Nancy’s emergency surgery, we got a call from our adoption agency telling us we did in fact qualify for their China program after months of no progress. HOPE. We also found out the timeline for bringing a child home could be shorter than we originally thought. HOPE. We have seen God working in the hearts and lives of students calling them “further up and further in” to his love, and we have seen them respond to his call. HOPE.

The faithful confidence that God continues to author a story that moves us from vision to action. Hope for now. Hope for later. So yes, Savannah, hope is a perfectly fitting word for this time.


*For further reading about hope, check out Mark Oestreicher’s book, Hopecasting, a well articulated, interesting, and accessible book on hope and how we experience it as Christians.