Summer began this week and yet, for many of us it doesn’t feel like any summer we have ever experienced. Mount Hermon is as quiet as we have ever known it. There are no bullhorn announcements drifting down from Ponderosa Lodge, no groups of campers laughing on their way to the Conference Center fountain, no fighting for parking spaces at the Post Office. We didn’t realize how much we would miss those things.
There is a word that comes from the Latin root, limen, which means “threshold”. The liminal space is the “crossing over” space – a space where you have left something behind, but you aren’t yet moving into something new. It is a space of transition, a liminal space. As Richard Rohr describes it, liminal space is “where we are betwixt and between the familiar and the completely unknown. There alone is our old world left behind, while we are not yet sure of the new existence.”
At the moment, here in the US, we know what we have left behind, what we have always assumed was ‘normal life’ has ceased in the way we have known it, including our communities of faith. As much as we might want it back, it is likely to never return in the same way that we knew and took for granted. Too much has shifted. Right now we are caught in the transition.
Liminal space is a waiting space. The old has been left behind but, the new has not yet come into focus. There is a beauty to this space if we can embrace it. “Liminal space can shake us out of our habitual lives. It draws us out of what we have known, but it does not allow us to know what is coming next, or when.”
Liminal space can be a place of confusion, a place of fear. The human brain craves certainty, it treats uncertainty like a kind of pain, something to be avoided. “Neuroscientists teach us that the brain rewards us with a burst of dopamine when we complete a circuit whether the circuit is accurate or not. In an effort to quell anxiety, the brain gives us an answer and rewards us for believing it.” Our creator knew this about how He formed us yet, “Fear not” is the most repeated command in the Bible.
But Liminal Space can also be a place of rest, a Sabbath of sorts. A place to take a deep breath, to lay down the routine and the habitual, a place to listen to the Still Small Voice of God calling us into newness. Liminal space is where all transformation takes place, if we learn to wait and let it form us. Like the chrysalis stage for the caterpillar, we have no way of knowing how long we will be there, what will happen in the cocoon or how deep the transformation will be.
If we can lay down our need for certainty and embrace the Sabbaths this season offers, for the earth and for our souls, what might God be birthing in this place of seeming darkness? What new expressions of His Kingdom Come might we experience? Where and how can we watch and wait with Him?