Who decides what is deemed holy? Only God I suppose. But there are occassions so undeniably transcendent we feel certain God has stamped it as sacred space.
When I imagine a "thin place" my mind goes to old ruins of ancient monasteries or breathing in crisp clean seaside air somewhere off the coast of Ireland.
I encountered the holy with my friend Steve this week in his bedroom amid the stench of feces and the thick fog of cigarette smoke. Steve is holding to the last threads of life. Earlier in the morning he cursed me up and down as I tried to convince him he needed to go to the hospital. Later in the afternoon he asked for my help to change his pants, which were soiled since the strength to get to the bathroom had failed him.
As I awkwardly wiped him up and searched for a new pair of pants something sacred was in motion. Through quiet sobs, Steve confessed that he was unable to say goodbye to his dad. His dad, a drug dealer, was the one member of his family who genuinely befriended him and showed him meaningful love. At the time of his dad's death, Steve was in jail. Steve expressed a lingering shame that’s been gnawing at him since his dad's death. He said, “I may seem angry but I’m just sad.”
“What would your dad say to you if he were here?” I asked.
“He’d tell me I’m alright and that he loves me.”
“And what would you say back to your dad?”
Raising his voice in anger and tears, Steve responded, “I’d tell him I loved him!”
We paused a few moments to recognize a profound gravity to this moment and then Steve said, “Thank you, Ryan.”
He apologized for needing me to wipe his naked adult posterior. I responded,
“this is just a part of being human.”
And I think that’s true but couldn’t I have said, “this is just part of being divine"? When humanity is most vulnerable and naked, it’s there that we most resemble Christ.
I encountered Christ right there through Steve - a dying man who has spent the better part of his life homeless and stoned.
I pulled the pants back on his bony 90-pound frame with the feeling that I might as well remove my shoes because the ground couldn’t get much holier than this.
Amid the smoke, the confessions... the shit - a few meaningful companions named Grace, Compassion, and Forgiveness had paid us a generous visit. Those companions assured me that - without a doubt - this was holy ground.
(Update: My friend, Steve Kyser, passed through the thin veil today 5/20/2014!)