Between Places and Seasons
During a long Jerusalem lunch with a dear Jewish friend who devotes her life to Jesus, I learned about a concept she had been exploring called Liminal Space. I had never heard of it, so after lunch I Googled it to discover that there is a lot out there on this interlude of time between seasons in life.
What is a Liminal Space? Here’s what I found:
▪ a threshold to something new
▪ where one condition draws to a close and another is beginning
▪ betwixt and between
▪ neither here nor there
▪ neither entirely in or out
▪ an in-between place
▪ the dusk between the dawn and sunrise
Suspended: Neither Here nor There
It is comforting to know there is a name for this condition which we all experience. It normalizes that which seems to crop up over and over again.
Change is difficult, especially change to the unknown, be it good or ‘bad’. Many examples come to mind:
▪ I’m pregnant
▪ I’ve been let go
▪ I’m a widow now
▪ I didn’t get in
▪ I have cancer
Think of some of the Liminal Spaces in biblical times:
▪ Build an ark, Noah
▪ Lead My people, Moses
▪ You will be with Child, Mary
▪ Sacrifice your only son, Abraham
▪ Don’t urge me to leave you, Naomi
We all experience transitions. In the midst of them we often do not know how long we must endure the messy situation. We are desperate for closure and resolution. The suspense seems to be too much to bear; we think, if only we knew when our relief would come, we could hold on till then.
Further, many of these situations choose us, we don’t choose them. Anger comes to the surface. We feel squirmy, vulnerable and uncomfortable. And it is lonely. Though loved ones support us, the limbo-like condition is ours-- no one else can go through it for us. Yet, we know this is how God likes us. This is when we are closest to Him. This is when He cultivates eternal treasures within us, hard-won attributes such as humility, perseverance and faithfulness.
Higher and Harder
Have you ever noticed that each Liminal Space seems higher and more daunting than those we've already conquered? In hindsight, our past transitions look easy and they turned out just fine. But inwardly we might think, what's to say that this present one will? We suddenly empathize with the Israelites and their fear in the desert. Yes, God led them through the Red Sea and performed all those miracles, but what’s to say He will do it again?
This is when we lean hard on Him and trust. In the school of learning, we are no longer in Liminal Space 101. Apparently, God believes we are ready to go on for an advanced degree, during which time He will shepherd us, just as He always has, whether we were aware of it or not.
Like the old song, Jacob’s Ladder, we are climbing a spiritual ladder and every round goes higher, higher and often harder, harder. As we get closer to God, we become more conformed to His love and the outcome of our present situation grows all the more glorious. Jesus knows what this is like. He intentionally went to lonely places, clinging to His Father until He arrived at the ultimate Liminal Space, GESTHEMANE. He pushed through the agony and made it, and with Gethsemane-power, He helps us make it through ours.
Psalm 27 has been a go-to scripture when I find myself in untidy and unending transitions. Read the last verse, then I will share something really wonderful:
Wait for the Lord;
Be strong and take heart
And wait for the Lord. (Psalm 27: 14 NIV)
See the word wait? In the Hebrew, the primary meaning of this word is not about waiting in line, staring at the clock or marking off days on a calendar. It has nothing to do with time and it is not passive. The Psalmist’s use of the word wait has more to do with waiting on a table or waiting upon a person with our services. More than that, the ancient meaning is to wrap around, to twist about, to cling to, as in a skein of yarn or a rope of licorice.
Read the verse again with these new meanings. Can you envision a precious toddler sitting atop the great shoe of a beloved grandfather, with arms and legs wrapped tightly around grandfather’s leg, trusting and holding on for dear life, going where this loving, wise guardian goes? This is waiting.
So steady on. Let’s twist ourselves around the Lord, go where He goes and serve Him as we seek His glorious, sure-to-come resolution. Let’s acknowledge clues of His loving attention toward us every day. He will carry us across the threshold into a new place and a new season. He will do it and we will see His glory. And all we who are between seasons will count on God for courage, strength, creativity and perseverance knowing it is worth it, that we will be the better for it and that His glorious, intertwining purposes for His Kingdom will be fulfilled.
He brought me out into a spacious place;
He rescued me because he delighted in me.
Psalm 18:19 (NIV)