I recall my childhood summers with such fondness, it stirs a place deep inside me, a place I guard fiercely. Summers spent with cousins and family friends. Summers spent running wild through what seemed like a vast wilderness of open space, with long grass and trees as far as our eyes could see. Summers spent swimming in the lake, hollering to each other to duck under the water when the horseflies began swarming.
I remember the smell of the campfire at dusk as my dad and grandpa created a sacred space for us to share stories, sing and play some instruments. We roasted marshmallows and baked potatoes wrapped in tinfoil. We performed the same skits over and over again for our parents, an audience that never grew tired of cheering and clapping, bestowing on us something beyond our comprehension at the time—the gift of esteem and self-worth.
When the singing and skits were over and the sun was tucked away for the night, we dared each other to sneak off into the neighbouring graveyard—never sure we would make it out alive. We shared ghost stories in the dark, resulting in hysterical laughter or a terrified trip to the safety of our parents playing board games in the cottage up the hill.
Come Sunday morning, we often found ourselves sitting around the fire once again, for our own version of church—lawn chairs on holy ground.
For me, that small cottage in Ontario was sacred land, a thin place—where heaven and earth meet and seem to touch.Lifelong friendships developed as we ran around in the hot sun, playing hide and seek in the bushes. We learned how to be doctors when we happened upon wounded forest creatures, once desperately trying to save a snake with a BandAid. We learned how to be entrepreneurs when we raided cupboards for cookies and baked goods, then sold them back to our unsuspecting parents and used the profits to buy our own candy and treats from the general store. We became amateur counsellors when a heart was broken or an ego bruised from losing a game of chicken. We defied sleep at sleepovers, giggling over crushes.
There was no such thing as being careful or cautious—it was normal for eight-year-olds to race a four-wheel vehicle around the property. We took our cues from my grandfather, a man who saw the joy in every situation and longed to create a wonderland of fun where kids could be kids. We all cheered when he sat on an old kitchen chair, on top of a wooden board, and was pulled around the lake by a speedboat. He showed us that we are only limited by our imaginations.
I miss those days. For me, that small cottage in Ontario was sacred land, a thin place—where heaven and earth meet and seem to touch. In the midst of a busy schedule, I long for more of this peace for myself and my family, for play and deep rest.
Jesus knows our need. He said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). What a beautiful promise. I can’t recreate the past or transport myself back to those summers. But what I can do is find rest in the presence of Jesus, and wait in expectation as he creates new thin places in our lives.
Lieutenant Erin Metcalf is the corps officer at Niagara Orchard Community Church in Niagara Falls, Ont.
Feature photo: © Warchi/iStock.com