Do you have a certain place where you feel an intense connection with God? You know, those places where God grabs your attention and your affections and won’t seem to let go? These divine moments make you feel like you are floating in the air of God’s presence. For some people these encounters happen in a quiet place with no noise, for others they happen at a retreat or event, and for many others they happen outside in nature. Wherever that place is, it’s a Thin Place.
In his book, Wild Goose Chase, Mark Batterson describes a Thin Place as somewhere you go where you feel God’s presence so strongly it’s like the atmosphere between earth and heaven is thin. God’s presence is so powerful that you feel like He’s literally right next to you. Because of these experiences happening in these Thin Places, you return to them over and over to experience God there.
This is exactly what altars were in the Old Testament. They were places where the men and women of the Old Testament felt like they met God face to face and they built something there as a reminder of God meeting them. When times got tough in the future, they could look to the Thin Place and remember God’s powerful guiding presence.
Abraham was one of the first men in the Old Testament to experience this kind of encounter with God. One day, God broke into Abe’s life and told him to move away from home to a land of his own that God would lead him to. So Abraham went and here’s how Scripture describes it (btw, his name was Abram at the time):
“Abram traveled through the land as far as Shechem. There he set up camp beside the oak of Moreh. At that time, the area was inhabited by Canaanites. Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, ‘I will give this land to your descendants.’ And Abram built an altar there and dedicated it to the Lord, who had appeared to him.” Genesis 12:6-7
God was giving Abe a walking tour of the land and told him to stop at the oak of Moreh. There, God swept Abe off his feet under the shade of the oak as God promised him this land for his descendants. Instantly this became a Thin Place for Abram and he built an altar to remember this encounter with God.
After moving around about the land, Abe was looking for another place to set up camp, “So Abram moved his camp to Hebron and settled near the oak grove belonging to Mamre. There he built another altar to the Lord” (Genesis 13:18). There it is again. Oak grove. Altar. Thin Place.
After a lot of years and ten more chapters, Abraham’s wife, Sarah, died. In order to give her a proper burial, Abe searched for a plot of land to buy which also included a cave so he could bury his wife and his relatives. Check this out… “So Abraham bought the plot of land belonging to Ephron at Machpelah, near Mamre. This included the field itself, the cave that was in it, and all the surrounding trees” (Genesis 23:17). That last little phrase “and all the surrounding trees” is one I’ve passed over as unimportant so many times. But really, that is the most important phrase in the whole passage. Why? Because the surrounding trees are the Thin Places. How could Abraham buy land without making sure there were Thin Places all around where he could go and meet with God? And Abe didn’t just buy one oak grove; he bought ALL the surrounding trees. How cool is that? He wanted to have as many altars as he could to honor God…as many places as possible where he could go meet with God in His powerful presence.
I have a Thin Place at Young Life’s Timberwolf Lake camp in Michigan. There’s a place in the woods I go to beyond the lake where I’ve met with God every time I’ve gone up there for a weekend retreat. That’s the place where I literally drew a line in the sand and stepped over. That’s the Thin Place where I decided to leave behind sinful strongholds in my life…the place where I stepped into a new dimension in my walk with God. I can’t wait to go back there again and I can’t wait to step into more Thin Places all around me.
Where’s your Thin Place? How have you encountered God there? How have those encounters changed your life?