Liminality isn’t as spooky as it sounds. It is essentially a kind of threshold period—that sense of no longer belonging to the old and not quite yet belonging to the new. This is the season where life has moved us ahead of our plans and we are in what feels like a free-fall state. These shifts can be vocational, personal, relational, or logistical but it is always unsettling for us to be between the now and the not yet, especially when it isn’t by our design or choosing.
Sometimes we aren’t even aware we’ve entered that space until we experience the emotional fallout. As mystic Richard Rohr describes, liminality is when we have left one room but not quite entered another. This is the doorway we must walk through after life’s most defining moments, the space in which we find ourselves after things like divorces, deaths, job changes, or sudden losses. And even positive shifts like sobriety and recovery. Or shifts in our belief systems or ideology that we haven’t settled. Regardless, liminality is the space from which we have to address what life will look like from here forward.
Sometimes it is a season of letting go of the illusion of certainty. Most of us describe it as a crisis of faith or a time of spiritual depression when, in fact, it is just a transitional season. We know intuitively that we won’t be the same, but we aren’t sure yet what we will be.
The great thing about liminal spaces is that they are where God seems to begin doing a new thing. We are no longer on autopilot and we can begin to anticipate something completely fresh. We can finally see ourselves outside of the box we’ve been in for years or sense a wave of God rolling us forward, away from old ways of thinking and being that we might have never left behind on our own. For all the angst and worry that accompanies being in liminal space, there is a great deal to be celebrated and anticipated.
There are multiple examples in Scripture of God leading people into such places—most often a time of teaching and preparing. This time is an excellent season to expect the fruit of deeper insights, wisdom, and compassion to follow.
Liminality doesn’t last forever, so we can be certain we will eventually turn a corner of some kind … soon enough. Whether we face it with fear or anticipation is up to us.
Reflection: What are some thresholds you find yourself in today? What fears accompany that transition? How can you embrace a place of anticipation and joy as you watch God doing a new thing in you, as opposed to fear and regret holding on to what is falling away?
Photo courtesy of morguefile.com and madcast
Dave Hampton is the author of Our Authentic Selves: Reflections on What We Believe & What We Wish We Believed. For most of his life, David Hampton could tell you what he believed about anything, anytime, at the drop of a hat. He prided himself in how well he could parrot what he’d been taught about the Christian doctrine. At some point, he decided to trust the experts with matters regarding his spiritual formation and he learned to spout their words as his own. In so doing, he flipped off the switch in his heart.
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