If you follow me on instagram or read my (in)courage post yesterday, you know my husband and I took a trip to the Southeastern part of the United States last month. But you may not know why we chose to visit that part of the country. It might seem rather random, but actually it is a purposeful place for us.
After marrying twenty years ago, we honeymooned in Georgia and Florida. We planned to spend 2 nights at a chain hotel in Savannah—a Best Western, I think. We arrived in town too early for check in, so David and I strolled around and struck up a conversation with the owner of an inn. She kindly let us come inside and look around her century old establishment. Being a lover of old houses even at 21, I couldn’t hold in my excitement. I found its painted ceilings, wooden banisters, and antique furniture fascinating.
The innkeeper told us we were welcome to stay the night there as she had vacancies, but upon hearing the nightly rate, we declined because it was miles outside our budget. So she asked how much our room cost at the Best Western, and when we told her ($65 or $75 a night, I think?), she kindly gave us her biggest, fanciest suite for the same price. I remember spinning around that room, taking in every detail, feeling like God had given us a wedding present I couldn’t have picked myself. We never forgot that innkeeper’s kindness to us, two college kids who in many ways had less sense than we had money. She didn’t have to show us such generosity, but she did. Even now, I tear up thinking about it.
So on our twentieth anniversary, June 17th, 2015, we stayed the night at the same inn. We did all kinds of remembering there as well as enjoying the opportunity to pay attention to only each other within the remembering. We talked about our present and future as we kept our eyes not only on the good parts of our marriage, but the things we need to work on, too.
Savannah is a thin place for David and I, a place where we see God’s provision and care for two young, clueless kids who have developed into two less clueless grown-ups. It’s a place that motivates us to thank God for all the ways his faithfulness has stuck close. It’s a place for us to remember that the way we used to see things is not necessarily the way we see things now.
It’s a place for us to pay attention.
Of course, just up the road from us that night, someone motivated by blind hatred shot and killed nine precious souls. We had been in Charleston the day before, and we visited there the day after on our way to the beach. On our post-Savannah trip to Charleston, my husband and I noticed the mood around the city was (of course) different than a few days earlier. Residents still hurried to work and errands, tourists walked to antique shops and restaurants. The mood then was more than sad or somber, it was reverent.
I haven’t been that close in proximity to a such a tragedy since the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. Being in Charleston that day made me remember many of the same feelings that being in Oklahoma did back then. We are inside-out brothers and sisters who share each other’s burdens. As my husband and I walked to lunch that day, I had the very real sense those in the city carried the burdens of the tragedy. I felt in my soul that God was close to the brokenhearted there.
Charleston became a thin place for me to know, really know, the way I once saw something is not the way it is. At one time, I believed widespread racism to be largely a part of our past. Now I know, really know, it is a part of our present, too. What’s more, I see how my old way of thinking contributed to the problem because it shows I’ve not been paying attention, and for that I am sorry.
Thankfully it’s not too late to start paying attention.
I loved our anniversary celebration. It was wonderful to come full circle by going back to a place that means something to our history and see several reminders that change isn’t bad. It was wonderful to pay attention to us and see the ways we are learning what being for each other looks like. It was refreshing to have uninterrupted time to discuss what it looks like to care more about being the one taught rather than the one doing the teaching.
“The world doesn’t need more loud people who think they have it all right — it needs more people compassionate people to sit down and listen long enough to quietly realize they had some of it wrong.” ~ Ann Voskamp
In more ways than one, I’ve certainly had some of it wrong. So I am paying attention to being one who isn’t afraid to learn what I’ve been missing. I see thin places as spaces where God’s faithfulness is more visible. I see how Jesus stands between the way things are and the way I wish things were as the only indestructible bridge. He’s the only One who can carry the weight of the world’s problems and my own sin.
And He’s the only One who promises to always always bring new life after death. Thank you, Lord.