A Spiritual Third Place?


My brother worked for the Big Green Machine (Star-biz-ucks or just The Bucks in our family’s vernacular) for years.  We would laugh at the lengths to which Starbucks would go to create the perfect coffee shop environment.  Tim (yes, brother and hubs have the same name) is by no means a corporate kind of guy so he found the “third place” concept a bit eye-rolling.

Starbucks’ goal was to be the place people went when they weren’t at home or at work, the place people chose to meet and hang out, the place you felt most comfortable. His vehemence at the third place protocol was definitely amusing and I, too, rolled my eyes at the effort Starbucks put in to being people’s home away from home.

Then I began to travel and realized just how comforting a little slice of familiarity can be when you’re in a different state or a different country. In a sea of quaint English tea shops or Italian cafes, sometimes you just need a green mermaid on your to-go cup.

I was working in Massachusetts this past week and after a few days alone in a new city, eating PB&J made in my hotel room, I yearned for a sense of home.  I let my iPhone lead me to the nearest Starbucks. The familiar scent of freshly ground coffee struck me the minute I pushed through the doors.  Computer open, Vanilla Spice Latte in hand, I was less aware of being 2,700 miles from home.

Starbucks isn’t my third place because I’m some sort of coffee snob, it’s mostly because I’ve built memories around being in a Starbucks.

Isn’t that what comfort derives from? Familiarity. Good memories. A sense of reassurance.

My Spiritual Third Place

As I was reflecting on my third place experience from the past week, I realized Starbucks wasn’t the only thing I turned to for comfort when I felt out of place.

God is a consistent presence in my life and has been a very real source of peace as I’ve traveled the globe.  On a train, in a plane, or in a lonely hotel room, I find deep comfort and reassurance from reading Scripture.

The Psalms are my spiritual third place. Within the Psalms, I am reminded of God’s faithfulness to me and generations before me. Those memories make my heart feel at home.

My emotions find companionship in the Psalmists who let their songs flow with honesty and intensity. Whether born out of fear, joy, strife, or praise, the Psalms are melodies made of very human feelings. They are feelings I can relate to and the very fact that the words are there, printed in my Bible, draw me closer into God’s arms.

So, when I am slipping between the sheets of a strange bed, wishing the vast space to my left wasn’t empty, I can read a Psalm and know that I’m not alone.

Where is your third place?

A spiritual third place has been more important in my life than a physical third place.

Do you have one a spiritual third place? What about our Lord makes you feel at home?

4 thoughts on “A Spiritual Third Place?

  1. Wow! Em, this is so good. Thanks for this. I was just studying about the “spiritual blessings” that result from a life grounded in the Truth of God’s Word. As you mention here, peace, along with the confidence of God’s faithfulness to us are definitely two of them. His Word is most definitely the best place to go for our comfort. Thanks for another great reminder.

  2. Oh dear. I am so happy in a Starbucks (We have a nickname, too – “Starbies” – much less thoughtful than yours!). My family rates days according to numbers of trips to the place (“Mom – it was a TWO-Starbucks day”). I would mostly be happy for it to be my third place, especially considering the closest is 30 miles away! I’ve never thought about that business-y side of it and the lengths to which they go to make it another home. Clearly, they have succeeded on me. Now I feel a little like the victim of marketing! :)

    I love your thoughts on the spiritual third place and would so quickly agree about Psalms… I also thought of text from some of the really great songs/hymns as my spiritual third place. Thank you for bringing this to light…even as I drink my cup of Starbucks… You have me thinking, Emily…

    1. I love your Starbucks nickname! and I am secretly thrilled at how devoted your family is to a coffee place. If left to my own devices, I would be at Starbucks multiple times a day, too – despite my new aversion to caffeine.

      I totally agree about hymns – we had several in our wedding for that reason.

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