Friday, May 08, 2009

Thin places of the heart

The Thin Places of the Heart
Scroll Article for May 2009
Deb Goldfeder

Celts believe that there are places in the world where the veil between heaven and earth is thinner and we can get closer to the Divine in those thin places. I don’t think the people of Lui have ever heard of thin places nor do I think they would think much of the idea. If you asked me if I thought Lui was a thin place, I would probably say that it wasn’t, at least not in the Celtic sense. But Lui is a place that will break your heart so why do I love it so?

Lately we have been talking about doing mission at Advent. What is mission anyway? It certainly isn’t just something we do in Lui. I’ve heard you say, “Don’t take me there! I have issues!” But we are talking about mission in a broader sense—not just in the “foreign service” branch of the church (as someone said). Maybe mission is anything we do that breaks our hearts. And if that is the case, why on earth would we do it?

Whenever something happens in Sudan now, I get e-mails with the stories attached. Those e-mails aren’t from Lui but they are from people who now know and care about the people living in mud huts in Southern Sudan. Going to Lui changed me and, as he frequently says, changed Dan but, most importantly, it changed you, too. We made you care and that makes you vulnerable to having your hearts broken, too.

In December, the Rev. Vasco Tadu Daniel shared with us that his wife Charity was expecting a child and she wasn’t feeling well. I knew that he must have been quite worried about her because people don’t talk about pregnancy in Lui. I’m not a maternity nurse but I visited her in the hospital. Her symptoms were vague but very uncomfortable. We tried a few things like putting bricks under the old iron bed to raise her head a bit and talked about her diet but nothing really helped. She was discharged before we left but she was not well. We urged Vasco to take her to the hospital in Juba but he waited until we left before taking her.

We really hadn’t heard anything about Charity and the baby until April 6th when we heard that the baby had been born. Charity was okay but the baby, a girl, was quite sick and in the hospital. We all held our breath and said our prayers until a week or so ago we heard that the baby was, “…a bit fine.” Thank you, God! Thank you for not breaking our hearts this time. We know Vasco at Advent. He has been here with us. He has shared our table. What happens to Vasco happens to all of us now. It is as if we are all connected by our heartstrings and they are stretched to the breaking point sometimes.

I’ve heard people who had a second child say that after the first child they wondered if they could ever love another child as much. When the second child was born they suddenly they found their hearts enlarged and their love multiplied. Mission does that, too. When that little airplane left Lui, I suddenly felt like my heart was ripping out of my chest and I cried. Don’t get me wrong, I was happy to be coming home but what if I never see them again? A friend said that we never know when we have seen someone for the last time and that was the last time I saw her. Who would be gone if I should be so blessed to return to Lui? All that love expands your heart until it gets thinner and thinner.
Marcus Borg was at Eden last week. He talks about “thin places”, too, but he says they are any place our hearts are opened. Maybe he would think Lui was a “thin place”. I think that it isn’t the place that gets thin but our hearts as they expand and expand.

One of the benefits of being an Episcopalian is that we absorb so much of Scripture through the Book of Common Prayer. There are also those phrases we absorb but sometimes we can’t quite remember where we heard them. One I have absorbed says, “…write all these thy laws in our hearts, we beseech thee.” [It comes at the end of the Decalogue in Rite I.] Somebody else has said that we should write Scripture on our hearts so when our hearts break open the words will fall inside. What a balm those words are for our broken hearts!

The Christian Mission Mutual Ministry Coordinators have invited you to mission and to get involved in small groups because it is in the community of a small group that we look at how the life of Christ is present in our work, what we pray for, what we confess and what we are thankful for. It heals our broken hearts but it makes us vulnerable to each other, too. I really pray you join us in this.

This prayer is the Prayer of an African Christian and it is mine for us all:

O God:
Enlarge my heart
that it may be big enough to receive the greatness of your love.
Stretch my heart
that it may take into it all those who with me around the world
believe in Jesus Christ.
Stretch it
that it may take into it all those who do not know him,
but who are my responsibility because I know him.
And stretch it
that it may take in all those who are not lovely in my eyes,
and whose hands I do not want to touch;
through Jesus Christ, my saviour, Amen.

(With All God’s People, World Council of Churches, 1989, in, Bread of Tomorrow: Praying With the World’s Poor, Janet Morley, Ed. SPCK, 2004, p. 27).

The Rev. Vasco Tadu Daniel on a visit to Confluence Park near St. Louis.

1 comment:

Lisa Fox said...

This is a wonderful expression of what happens, and I thank you for it. God broke my heart open in Lui, and it was a blessing.