I was honored to have my talented sister-in-law, Lisa Pruitt offer to write this week’s Journal Post. She loves caving more than anyone I’ve ever met. She is the adored older sister of my wife Heather and the adoring mother to my wonderful nieces, Chloe and Camile. Thank you Lisa!
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” -Psalm 46:10.
Today’s reading: Judges 21; Acts 25; Jeremiah 35; Psalms 7–8
Imagine with me we are in a cave. It is a landscape beneath the landscape. Some enter caves with trepidation and fear. But a cave – to me – is the very essence of God’s work right before our eyes. Caves are a fragile ecosystem, dark, damp, flowing water, the pungent smell of earth. Caves are our final frontier and they contain indescribable beauty.
I am drawn to caves, not because they are dark and scary but because it is a place where I can experience God in a new way. I can be still there in the dark and quiet, my senses are tamped down. When I turn off my headlamp, sight is absent, taste is minimal, I can touch the cool damp rock and smell minerals and soil. I can hear the delicate musical and echoing sounds of water dripping somewhere. It is a perfect environment for meditation, for prayer.
The Celtic Christians appreciated a concept known as “thin places”. A thin place is where the divide between our earthly world and God’s kingdom are narrowed, where we can experience a glimpse of God’s majesty, feel his love in surround sound. Sometimes I experience a cave as a thin place. It is not a place of fear but a place of beauty, a place where I know that God is at work, molding and sculpting hard limestone into natural art. As written by T. Augustus Forbes Leith, “from the star-spangled canopy of heaven to the far bottom of the majestic ocean, created earth is teeming with wondrous beauty”.
I went with a group of people to a cave in Mexico a few years ago. We went in single file, walking and talking quietly in the dark, our voices echoing. We walked about 15 minutes before encountering water. We slowly and gently entered the water and got acclimated to our surroundings and the unfamiliar feeling of swimming and floating in a very dark cavernous space. The water was warm and so clear that it appeared to be only 6 or 7 feet deep but it was actually 60 feet deep. There were extravagant formations everywhere I looked, hanging from the ceiling, along the walls, some emerging from the edges of the clear deep water – as if an artist had placed them there. I felt so peaceful, so blissfully happy, so overwhelmed with all my senses – that I began to weep. I experienced a thin place that day.
When I read the scriptures for today, what I continued to ruminate over was Psalm 8. “Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” God has set his glory in the heavens and the earth. When I consider the tangible and visible things that God has created, the work of His fingers, the moon and the stars, the innumerable bugs – so colorful and specialized, high mountains, deep oceans, the rebirth of spring, the delicate soft features of a baby, the miracle of unfolding life, flowers, fungus, and the amazing array of colors our eyes can perceive, I am humbled. Our God is majestic.
Appreciating the beauty of our natural world around me reminds me of the Lord’s majestic name! Anytime I can stop and notice, anytime I can be still and think of God’s love, I am reminded of God’s majesty and I experience a thin place. Sometimes the cave’s environment facilitates my experience of a thin place, sometimes it’s a mountain top, other times it is when I lie in the grass at night and allow the grandeur of the night sky to flow into me.
These profound thin places are not experienced by me every day for they require 1) the right environment, 2) the proper state of observation by me and 3) most importantly – my willingness to be still. What I know is that without Jesus at my side, even at times when these three ingredients converge, they would be meaningless and would not coalesce into a thin place without Jesus, because I would not be worthy of the familiarity of a thin place. I would be there but could not reach out to God, could not feel Him.
The indescribable beauty of all that God has given us on this earth is majestic but it is nothing compared with the gift of Jesus.