I have been living in a liminal space for a long time without even knowing it!
Liminal space or liminality is a concept I have only recently been introduced to by our pastor and my lecturer in the same week. Since then, this interesting idea has captured my imagination.
The word liminal comes from the Latin word limen meaning: threshold, doorway, any point of entering or beginning.
Liminal space then is the place of waiting, the twilight zone in between the now and the not yet. It is seeing through a glass darkly as Paul puts in in 1 Corinthians 13:12. It is an uncertain place of transition – a state of limbo that can be quite painful, confusing and unsettling.
Liminal spaces are mostly created by great upheavals. In our case, the ongoing sense of loss and the memories of the severe suffering our Bethany endured often lands us smack bang in the land of liminality. We can’t go back – and we can’t yet go forward – know what I mean?
Many of our family and friends find themselves in liminal spaces of a different kind right now too…
- My dear father in law as he waits for Alzheimer’s Disease to finish its work in his beloved wife.
- My friends who sacrificially care for their disabled daughter while ministering to other disabled people in one of the poorest nations on earth.
- Other precious friends as they deal with physical and mental health issues that never seem to be resolved… I could go on and on…
Liminal spaces are usually uncomfortable and they usually catch us by surprise… yet they are a normal part of life and it is normal to feel totally disorientated while visiting there. Liminal spaces feel permanent and seem like they are going to go on forever. One can easily lose hope and perspective in the swirl of foggy clouds that liminality can bring.
But here is the good news about liminal spaces… they are temporary and they are transformative! In fact, these transitional, thresholds are where the best and most lasting transformation actually takes place!
Author and theologian Richard Rohr says this about liminality…
“…where we are betwixt and between the familiar and completely unknown. There alone is our old world left behind, while we are not yet sure of new existence. That’s a good space where genuine newness can begin.”
Ok, I kind of get that, but incredulously he goes on to say…
“Get there as often and stay there as often as you can by whatever means possible. This is the sacred place where the old world is able to fall apart, and a bigger world is revealed. If we don’t encounter liminal spaces in our lives, we start idealizing normalcy. The threshold is God’s waiting room. Here we are taught openness and patience as we come to expect an appointment with the divine Doctor.”
Yet again, God is teaching me some deep lessons to help keep me secure in Him during a difficult and uncertain season. Here I am living in the midst of liminality (where things were not as they were and things are not as they one day will be) and to be honest, I don’t like it very much! But as I accept that I am here in this God-ordained moment of time, I begin to discover the wonderful treasures He wants to show me that can only be revealed in this messy place.
When you think about it, ALL of life here on earth could be considered as a liminal space! This world we call home is just temporary and is where our faith is stretched and grown in the tangles of joy, uncertainty, pain & sorrow. This place in life hurts, but I am learning to be more at peace and secure in the liminal space – how about you?
It was 23 years ago this Easter Saturday that our Bethany Joy was born.
Easter Saturday… what a perfect example of a liminal space. I can’t imagine the trauma, shock, horror, confusion and disappointment the first disciples woke up to on that first Easter Saturday. It was the day in between the suffering death and the miraculous resurrection. On Easter Saturday, it seems that they had forgotten all about the promises Jesus made and the emotional pain would have been excruciating. I can be so hard on the first disciples, but I can be just like them in my grief-stricken liminality.
Yet, as they grieved upon the threshold, the twilight transformed day into night and the next sunrise ushered in Resurrection Day!
Liminal spaces can feel unsafe as often we have left what we thought was secure behind. In praying about this concept, God has given me another picture this week to help me BE secure in the liminal space…
Imagine His nail-scarred hands are holding you firmly in this sacred moment in time… the Hand holding you on your left represents the sin and sufferings He entered into for us and the one on your right holds you in redemption and resurrection life. Both hands touch you in this place… both cradle you and you cannot have one without the other. He has allowed you into the fellowship of this intimate space where both the cross and the resurrection have to be part of your life if you are to be part of Him.
Maybe right now your thoughts and feelings are burning deep, sharing with Him the searing pain of His nail wounds. Weep with Him in your losses and be grateful that this same Hand is the One shielding you from the eternal suffering of separation from life-giving relationship with Father, Son & Spirit.
Perhaps mind, body and spirit you are experiencing a closeness to the victory of the resurrection Hand of Jesus that is also holding you. If so, then also be grateful and grasp it with all you have. On your knees at the threshold, worship the One who is the Door and longs to usher you into His new beginnings filled with abundant life!
Even when the bottom has fallen out of our world, we can BE secure in the liminal spaces of life.
Dear friends, let us encourage each other as we courageously step into these liminal spaces. When you can’t go back to the way things were and you are not sure of what is ahead, you can be sure that in His perfect time and in His perfect way, He will open up a new path through the desert wilderness – a path you never knew was there! (Psalm 77:19)
Most assuredly, your liminal space in time will not last forever and it is here that you will be transformed from glory to glory as you are held by the nail-scarred, immortal hands of the crucified and risen Christ!
But I’m caught in between the now and the not yet
Sometimes it feels like forever and ever
That I’ve been reaching to be all that I am
But I’m only a few steps nearer – yet I’m nearer!
Amy Grant (based on I John 3:2)