In Celtic spirituality, caol 'ait is a term for “thin places”. A thin place is where the physical world and the spiritual realm connect, where the distance between the natural and the spirit is narrowest. Perhaps it’s what Jacob felt in Genesis 28 after his dream of a ladder into heaven:
When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.” Genesis 28:16–17 (TNIV)
Christian mystics may use the term as a way to describe the moments, not the locations, where God seems to break into our world. Or we break into His world, though I’m not sure how that works. “Break into” is probably a misnomer; I’m fairly sure heaven is unguarded. For one, why? That’s probably akin to visiting the sun; let’s just slip past those pesky solar flares and drop our landing gear.
Lately I’ve been using the phrase “storming heaven”. I’m not sure where I got that; maybe it’s leftover language from my ancient Pentecostal days. I know I have a book in my library by Jay Stevens with the same name, but it’s a history of LSD from Huxley to Kerouac to Leary. Uh, not exactly charismatic stuff.
But I think the term squares with an account in Acts. Peter and John bring a healing touch to a physically handicapped forty-something man who panhandled each day by one of the temple entrances. Remarkably, he’s instantly healed. Peter explains what just happened to all the Jews gathered as a result and basically says: “Change the way you think about everything. Anyone who doesn’t listen to Messiah Jesus will be cut off.”
We would assume that’s not the way to win friends, but the church grew to five-thousand men.
And they dragged Peter and John off to jail. The next day they stood before the high priest and the ruling leaders. It’s easy to gloss over this and not realize how terrifying that would have been; the next step could be execution. Imagine being dragged as a terrorist before the religious equivalent of Dick Cheney. After being interrogated, it reads that Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit and then threw a roundhouse sermon on Psalm 118 about “rejecting the cornerstone”.
They couldn’t figure out how to punish Peter and John because all the people were still seriously praising God for what they had seen, so they let them go. They got back with their friends, explained what happened, and a spontaneous prayer meeting broke out. They finished praying with this: “…And now, O Lord, hear their threats, and give your servants great boldness in their preaching. Send your healing power; may miraculous signs and wonders be done through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” (Acts 4:29, 30 NLT)
Sounds to me like they stormed heaven and were asking for two things: boldness in talking about Jesus and supernatural evidence to be manifested in His name. They all got filled with the Spirit and then the house physically shook. Now that’s a thin place.
I think that’s what I want to see. I want God to fill us. I don’t want to prescribe how that should look like in a corporate setting. I’m suspect of “charismatic promptings and instruction”. Been there. Seems to me the disciples had no clue what this corporate mysterious “filling of the Holy Spirit” should look like. Did they expect the house to shake? They just wanted boldness and evidence.
Somehow I think that’s the right approach.
Only one catch: perhaps as often as not, it’s somewhat dependent on the level of our desperation. Maybe the thin places are as narrow as our hunger.
Come, Holy Spirit.