Thin Places

Are we earthly beings on a spiritual journey, or spiritual beings on an earthly journey?

My sweet sister, Barbara, died when an insulting ordeal with cancer hit her hard and fast. In what seemed like an instant, she was gone.

Over the years, she and I had maintained a fragmentary conversation about being “visited” by people who had already died. We recalled our father describing an incident after Phil, his younger brother, had been shot down over Germany while piloting a B17. Dad was awakened in the middle of the night to see his younger brother standing at the foot of his bed in the Officer’s Quarters. Unaware of the downed aircraft, Dad “spoke” briefly with his brother before intuitively sensing Phil’s earthly life had ended. Later, this was officially confirmed.

Barbara herself described two occasions after Mom died, when she was “visited” by Mom in Barbara’s sewing room (Mom loved to sew) and they engaged in heartfelt conversation. Our sister, Suzanne, related to me a similar experience.

However, nothing of the sort ever happened to me, probably due to my skepticism!

The very last time I saw her, Barbara again promised to “visit” me, saying “When I leave this place, I’m gonna really bug you,” and then hugged me in such a way that I can still feel her squeeze.

Two days after she died, being all churned up inside and needing something to do, I ventured into the summer heat to cut grass. As soon as I cranked the mower, a bright red insect started buzzing around my head. Thinking it was a wasp or hornet, I stood very still, before realizing it was a dragonfly. I had never even seen a red dragonfly, much less had one land on my shoulder, where it attached itself quite firmly. For forty-five minutes, the creature clung to me as I trudged behind the mower and, over the noise, seemingly whispered things into my right ear. Then, in the blink of an eye, it vanished, leaving me with a strong feeling that something or someone had communicated with me through this weird and wonderful encounter.

I was prompted to do some dragonfly research, and then better understood why I sensed a message in this experience.

“Now, I’m Free!”
Formerly a brown nymph confined to murky waters, this dragonfly one day emerged toward the light, broke out of her shell, and transformed into a neon skimmer. Dragonflies are the fastest and most maneuverable insects on earth. Hovering, darting and looping with ease, poise and elegance, they skim above the surface of this world and soar into the beyond. No more containment. Everything is possible. Dreams can be fulfilled, and the birthright claimed. I was prompted to recall a marvelous question from scripture: “Death, where is your victory?” (I Corinthians 15:55).

“I Can See Clearly.”
Unlike mere humans, with only two pupils for gathering light, dragonflies have complex eyes comprised of 30,000 light sensing organs called facets. They can see in 360 degrees, all at one time, with amazing situational awareness! Mesmerized by this big-eyed bug with a bright red body, I remembered reading in Matthew 6: “If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light.” And, trying to describe Heaven, 1 John 3:2 claims: “We shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.”

“This Is Easy.”
Common houseflies quickly become exhausted when beating their wings 345 times per second, while dragonflies need only 30 strokes per second to remain aloft, and can do it all day long, without resting, even consuming their meals while in flight. I thought of Jesus’ invitation to come to Him, learn of Him, experience rest in Him, because His future for us is easy and light (Matthew 11:28-30).

“The Real Me Has Not Changed.”
Dragonfly fossils have been found from 320,000,000 years ago, the Carboniferous Period, pre-dating dinosaurs and flowering plants. They’ve remained essentially the same, retaining their uniqueness throughout the ages, while nearly everything else around them has evolved. The thought of something unchanging hints at the imperishable and immortal body in heaven, as referenced in 1 Corinthians 15.

“I Love My New World.”
Joni Eareckson Tada asked, “How can I miss a place I’ve never been? But I do. I miss heaven.” When Barbara told me “I’m ready to go,” I think she was, in a sense, missing heaven. St. Augustine wrote: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in You.”

Barbara’s last question to me was: “Do you really believe there is a heaven?” Our eyes locked onto one another and I said: “Yes, I am sure of it.” There was a prolonged pause as we gazed deeply into each other’s eyes, and that sacred moment reminded me of Paul’s assertion in Romans 8: “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.”

The Celtic people used a peculiar phrase — “a thin place” – to describe any situation or circumstance where there seems to be a thin veil between this life and the next. Now, my rather ordinary backyard has become a “thin place,” where winds of the spirit sometimes call forth red “dragons” that neither bite nor sting but deliver messages from another place, filled with mystery and awe.

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