Friday, March 26, 2010

Thin Places: A Memoir, by Mary DeMuth

Mary DeMuth explores memories from her childhood and their impact on her continued spiritual life.

In the book’s introduction, Mary explains that a thin place is a Celtic concept, describing a place where the earthly world and heavenly world come in contact with each other. The boundaries between man and God literally become thin, and one has the opportunity to open the doorway to the spiritual realm, feeling God more fully present than in other times and places. Each chapter in the book goes on to describe one of Mary’s personal thin places, how it impacted her life at that point in time, and the continued impact she feels today.

Many of Mary’s thin places spring from pain. Rape, father loss, envy, pornography, and perfectionism are just a few of the very painful topics that weave their way through the memoir. Yet, in the midst of pain, Mary finds growth, and peace. It is incredibly inspirational to read the story of a woman of faith who cannot be tied up in a neat, pretty package, yet know that to God she is a beautiful gift. I think often women are given the message that once they are flawed, particularly when they feel somehow “spoiled” but sexual assault, they feel they will never be worthy of God’s love. The reality is we all fall short, regardless. Jesus does not save us because of our worthiness; He saves us because of His love. One of the clearest messages Mary drives home in the book is that Jesus does not want us to chase our own perfection; He only wants us to chase Him. The part of the book that spoke to me the most was the chapter entitled “Like Me”. It describes a struggle I share with Mary, desiring acceptance from everyone around me. The book now challenges me to see this as slavery, and to stop seeking the favor of people, but to instead seek the Lord.

There are also joyful thin places described in the book, and probably the most touching is Mary’s narrative of her relationship as a daughter, and how it impacts her role as a mother. She describes her children as gifts, and explains how God reveals Himself differently through each child. It was a place of peace in the book, and helped to balance out some of the sorrow the reader inevitably feels when reading of Mary’s past hurts.

Despite touching on a lot of dark times in her life, Mary’s frank and open recounting of her thin places is inspirational. As a reader, I am inspired to reflect upon my own life for thin places, and to realize the impact those meetings with God continue to have on me today. I am also challenged to continue seeking out thin places, and being open to experiencing God in new ways.

Mary is a fiction writer, and unfortunately, I have not had a chance to read any of her fiction works. In some ways, I am glad. This way, I was able to learn who Mary was as a woman, as an author, before meeting her characters. I have heard that authors put parts of themselves even into works of fiction, something Mary actually discusses in this book. By meeting Mary in her Thin Places, I will be better able to know her characters, and understand their struggles.

This book was provided to me free of charge courtesy of the Christian Review of Books.