This week I used my new tunnbröd rolling pins. As I rolled out the discs of dough fragrant with anise, fennel and eight wholesome grains, I remembered my first experience baking this in a brick oven on a cold, cold day in Sweden. As I rolled it out I thought, “The dough must be flat enough by now.” My sister-in-law must have heard my thoughts as she patiently responded that it needed to be rolled out even more. I began to doubt the dough’s strength. When I thought it was certainly flat enough, she handed me a different rolling pin, one covered with spiky knobs, to create texture and indentations that would keep the dough from puffing up in the hot oven. In 30 seconds the heat transformed it into a beautifully risen flat bread with a deliciously chewy texture. We spread creamy butter on the hot, flame-tinged bread, and the next day added cheese and other tasty toppings, creating rolled sandwiches. I was amazed at how this thin, nearly transparent dough, had such great strength and resiliency.
Celtic Christianity refers to thin places as moments where God is present. My life at times seems distant from God, but I am content knowing that God is in every place and every thing, at every time. As I made tunnbröd and asked myself “Isn’t it rolled thinly enough?” I answered, “No.” At times I tore the dough a bit, but it merely had to be repatched. Its resilience spoke to me, reminding me to be patient, alert, and to listen at all times. For I never know when heaven and earth might touch.
While surrounded by the beauty of the snowy mountains and reindeer in Norway, the glistening lakes and moss-covered boulders in Sweden, or being present at the baptism of a child in Denmark, I felt glimpses of the divine. When I see or hear someone passionately sharing what brings them life, this can also be a thin place, and words cannot describe how transforming this experience can be. I usually stumble upon these sacred moments at unexpected times. When memory fades of these thin places, it returns when I’m alert to the divine in moments like the thin texture of the tunnbröd, the whiff of the air while baking it, and the taste of Sweden on my tongue. Memories such as these replenish my spirit with remembrances of God dwelling in my life and in my heart.
If God (however defined) is everywhere and “everywhen,” as the Australian aboriginals put it so wonderfully, then why are some places thin and others not? Why isn’t the whole world thin? Maybe it is but we’re too thick to recognize it. Maybe thin places offer glimpses not of heaven but of earth as it really is, unencumbered. Unmasked. ~Eric Weiner