Vapor Lies and Thin Places

First off, sorry if you’ve received emails with early or incomplete posts in the last few days. Wish I could blame computer error, but can’t. I guess I’ll just place the blame on Trevor. Anyways, apologies and on to today’s thoughts…

“I don’t believe people are looking for the meaning of life as much as they are looking for the experience of being alive.” — Joseph Campbell

Allie's BirthThe picture on the right was taken the actual moment my daughter was born into this world.  And although it’s not my best look, it’s been an image that has meant a lot to me over the last 10 years.

Not that I need a picture to remind me of that moment. It’s one that I hope will be stuck in my brain forever. We live for these types of moments — when all else fades into the background and everything makes sense because you can see the beauty in front of you. In these occasions there is no deep existential search for meaning, no rummaging around for truth.

Some moments are so pure that we get an unfiltered sense that life is precious and beautiful and amazing and meant to be savored. Sometimes the truth doesn’t hide; it sits in blazing sunlight for everyone to see.

The Celtic spirituals called these “thin places” — when the boundary between heaven and earth is especially thin and the Divine can be experienced more readily. Some people spend much of their lives looking for these thin places when life has meaning and makes sense.

The problem is our lives aren’t spent in these thin places. If you’re like me, the line between heaven and earth seems much thicker when I sit in my office or I’m mowing my lawn or paying my bills. In our normal workaday lives, meaning is much more evasive.

King Solomon, the writer of Ecclesiastes, looked around over his life and felt very similar. In the first few chapters of his book, he looks over the totality of his life’s work — the horses and silver, the knowledge and education, the wives and concubines — and wondered at the meaning of it all.

All he saw was vapor.

That’s the word he repeats over and over in those first few chapters. The Hebrew word hevel, which is often translated “meaningless”, literally means vapor or mist. In other words, most of his life was fleeting – here and then gone. Nothing seemed to sustain or satisfy.

Until he reached a conclusion —

“So I decided there is nothing better than to enjoy food and drink and to find satisfaction in work. Then I realized that these pleasures are from the hand of God. For who can eat or enjoy anything apart from him?” – Eccl 2:24-25

After he had searched for the thin places in every corner of the human experience, he decided to give up the exploration. Instead of trying to find the special moments in life, he chose to see everything he could for the gift of God that it is.

Because joy has no birthplace and peace has no beginning.

The essential lie of the vapor around us is that meaning lies on the other side of something. That “if I just…”, then I will find truth and happiness.

But what Solomon found and what Jesus offers is that we can find life, meaning and truth in each moment. That we do not have to wait on a thin place. That the line between heaven and earth is always thin if we will just pay attention.

Because every moment, whether amazing or mundane, is meant to be enjoyed and savored because it is a gift from God.

So today may we all realize that our lives are overflowing with meaning. May we look around and see the beauty that is evident if we will simply open our eyes to it. May we see a God who surrounds us every moment and infuses this world with his grace and love.

May we ignore the vapor lies and live in the thin place.

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