In October 2008 I went on a silent retreat to Holy Island off the Northumbrian coast. This was something of a watershed experience for me. It caused me to think deeply about my faith and subsequently set off to explore new pathways before rejoining a more familiar one, but in a more committed way. It was a significant and memorable five days. Even the contrary UK weather was kind and the island lit with Autumn sunshine as we enjoyed the beautiful views and the open spaces where you could walk, explore, meditate and pray to the sound of seals just off the coast and sea birds wheeling in the sky above. Holy Island is a thin place which is a Celtic term for somewhere the boundary line between heaven and earth becomes gossamer thin. I am told another example of this is at Ffald-y-Brenin in Wales where I have yet to visit.
I am gradually learning to be more aware of those moments when that instant of connection to the Spirit happens and suddenly feelings of negativity or insecurity are overcome and we can become “sure of the things we hope for, … certain of the things we cannot see..” (Hebrews 11:1 GNB) There are times when even in very difficult circumstances when things seem bleak, that we can receive a touch from God which pauses the pain we are in.
We don’t have to be in a special place but anywhere at all for a glimpse of heaven to break through. Just last week after a busy and quite draining day at work, feeling tired and in need of a spiritual uplift, I attended an Aglow meeting after being given a flyer from a lady at Church. The speaker was Maureen Sims, a lady whose story of moral and spiritual transformation through Jesus was astounding and very inspiring. My first impressions were of a little, ordinary lady with rough edges, but as she spoke, the work of the Spirit in her shone like a jewel and I was hanging on her every word, totally energised and encouraged by God. Afterwards I asked her to pray for me which she kindly did.
So I am looking out for more opportunities to grab hold of God and to take the time to let these instances nourish me and hopefully encourage others through me. Somehow I think as I am more able to recognise them, so I am more likely to come upon them!