Looking at a hiking map he’d recently purchased, Gawan Mac Greigair noticed an icon for a place of worship “in the middle of bloody nowhere on the edge of a wood.” Intrigued, he felt compelled to investigate and livetweet the journey. The resulting Twitter thread is filled with stark and haunting black-and-white photography from Greigair’s exploration of the North Downs of southeast England, complemented by appreciative commentary on the surrounding woodland and countryside.

Throughout his journey, Greigair is unsure what he’ll discover at that mysterious spot on the map, but given the location’s remoteness, he assumes that it will probably be some old ruins. Regardless, he finds the journey itself enjoyable, and even notes that along the way “the everyday took on an entirely different presence.”

When he arrived at his destination, it was quite unlike anything he was expecting.

Much of the rest of the Twitter thread is filled with Greigair delighting in the church building itself. Though not a Christian, he confesses that he finds much about the church — St. Margaret’s at Wychling — deeply appealing, from its lack of electricity and colorful interior to the simple and inclusive practices it promotes.

Greigair concludes his thread with some truly beautiful words.

As I’ve reflected on Greigair’s experience, some random thoughts have come to mind.

First of all, let’s be clear: I’m pretty jealous of his experience, and doubly so because it would be well nigh impossible to replicate in the States since everything here is so much newer than over there on the other side of the pond. Time and age impart depth, meaning, and value — all essential for experiencing the numinous. Standing next to a church that’s been around since before the 13th century is bound to make you feel a little smaller and put your own short life in perspective.

There’s something beautiful about the faithfulness represented by a church (and by “church,” I mean both the structure and its congregation) that’s been rooted to a single spot for centuries, humbly and unassumingly ministering and testifying all the while, with little concern for “keeping up with the times” (or getting electricity).

I don’t want to speak too much to Greigair’s experience or attempt to explain it away, but I do think he truly had a God-blessed encounter with the divine. His reference to Seumas Stewart’s concept of “thin places” — those places where the supernatural breaks through materialistic views of the world, allowing one to “experience… a ‘Presence’ beyond the material world but hidden within it” — is worth considering. It’s a concept rooted in Celtic Christianity, which saw little need to separate the material from the spiritual — a division we too readily accept in the West.

Our sin-dulled senses will never experience the deeper reality in its fullness — not on this side of eternity. But by the grace of God, we are allowed glimpses of it that, if we let them, leave a mark on our life.Greigair’s words — “I’m not a believer in heaven, but I appreciate the notion of places where other forms of reality become tangible, where past and present interlace.” — are particularly illuminating and instructive. For one thing, it’s a reminder to me as a Christian that I belong to an unbroken chain of belief, the “communion of the saints” as it’s called in the Apostles’ Creed. On a fundamental and mysterious level, I have more in common with those faithful believers who worshipped at St. Margaret’s back in the 13th century than I do with modern non-believers.

Through Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection, the “past and present interlace” (to use Greigair’s phrase) and all who worship Him are brought into the same family, the same blood. This excites and humbles me, and it makes me look forward to the day when I’ll be able to meet those 13th century believers, as well as believers from all other times and cultures, and truly celebrate our union.

While reflecting on Greigair’s tweets, I also found myself thinking about the way that we — especially Christians — so easily divide life into “sacred” and “secular” categories, a division that tracks the divide we insist on between the material and the spiritual. An obvious example of this is how Christians often approach the arts and pop culture: “sacred” art is placed over here while “secular” art is placed over there, and never the two shall meet. What’s more, there’s the added implications that “secular” art a) doesn’t really deal with “sacred” topics and, therefore, is of little value to Christians and b) anything made by “secular” hands should be viewed with suspicion lest it cause good Christians to stumble.

This strange divide goes beyond music and movies. Some jobs and vocations, like pastor and missionary, are obviously sacred, and others, like doctor and lawyer, could be quasi-sacred because of the nature of their tasks (e.g., healing the sick and promoting justice). But other vocations are intrinsically secular. As a result, if you’re, say, a web developer, there’s nothing really spiritual about the task that takes up a huge portion of your life. Of course, you should work hard, respect your superiors, and be salt and light in your workplace (aka, your mission field), but those are incidental: the actual work you do and the goods/services you produce are mundane, worldly, un-spiritual, secular.

On the surface, this doesn’t seem like a big deal, but I believe it leads to a lot of dissatisfaction and frustration. On the one hand, Christians are commanded to do everything to the glory of God, but if we view everything we do as inherently secular and unrelated to the sacred aspects of our lives, how is fulfilling that command even possible? To go with my earlier example, how, exactly, does one design a website to the glory of God? How can a website, even a “Christian” one, really be a sacred thing that interests or pleases the Creator of the Universe? It’s an inherently schizophrenic approach to life, but one we assume all the time.

Perhaps one solution to this quandary would be to apply the concept of “thin places” a bit more broadly. As Seumas Stewart writes, “Prayers covered every aspect of life, kindling the fire, milking the cow, blessing the boat, guarding the family: daily rituals of communities dependent on nature at first hand… For the Gaels, separation of material and spiritual did not exist.”

Most discussion that I’ve seen concerning “thin places” exists within the context of actual geographic locations where one feels, like Moses, that you’re suddenly walking on hallowed ground. But what if “thin places” exist all around us, in all areas and aspects of life? Your job, your hobbies, your marriage, your parenting, your friendships, your bank accounts, your political activities: what if all these things, and more, were places where the spiritual and the material intimately overlapped, with the latter being charged, influenced, and invigorated by the former?

What if you had an experience like Greigair’s, but instead of stumbling across a gorgeous old church in the middle of nowhere, you stumbled across, or were exposed to, something extraordinary and otherworldly in some seemingly mundane area of your life? Put another way, what if you approached the mundane areas of your life from the perspective that they’re actually not quite so mundane?

This might sound rather hippy-dippy and New Age-y, but if you’re a Christian, then shouldn’t one of your fundamental beliefs about reality be that there’s a deeper, richer reality lurking behind the one you experience with your senses? What’s more, shouldn’t you actively seek to experience this reality and allow it to shape and inform your life? What if the “sensual” reality you always experience is like the North Downs that Greigair walked through on that foggy day, a landscape that’s certainly beautiful in its own right but that actually obscures something far more delightful and sublime?

Our sin-dulled senses will never experience the deeper reality in its fullness — not on this side of eternity. But by the grace of God, we are allowed glimpses of it that, if we let them, leave a mark on our life. The ways in which we might catch a glimpse are myriad. A precious or intimate relationship, a well-made meal shared with friends and loved ones, the creativity of a child, a beautiful song or movie, a well-written book, a website designed to be both aesthetically pleasing and efficient, even a walk through “the middle of bloody nowhere” — all of these things might easily be a “thin place” through which you experience the numinous Presence “hidden within” the material reality.