Thursday, July 20, 2017

Liminal Space

I have just completed the first of two eye surgeries that remove cataracts and implant a new lens in each eye.  This is a time of transition.  The vision in one eye is improved significantly while the other remains the same as before.  My old eyeglasses work great for the eye that has not had surgery, but not at all for the one with the new lens.  The transition will continue through the next surgery on the other eye and for some time after.

This is a liminal space for me.  Alan Roxburgh introduced me to the idea of liminality.  In a ritual, this is the state of being on the threshold from one way of doing life to another.  One is almost there but not yet. It is a time of disorientation, stress, and promise.

The nation of Israel experienced liminal space as they passed through the wilderness. They were no longer slaves but they were not yet what God had called them to be.

Parents experience this liminal space when children graduate from high school and begin college, a job, or military service.  Their sons and daughters are not quite adults but they are no longer children.  What will relationships be like in this new stage of life?

When we change jobs--either voluntarily or involuntarily--we find ourselves in liminal space. We knew the expectations and environment in the old position, but what will be required of us in our new role?

At retirement, we give up what is familiar to move into a different pattern of life.  Too often, we do this with a lack of clarity and enter into a time of uncertainty and identity confusion.

When churches lose a staff member, they find themselves in a time of change.  Many will grieve over the loss of a beloved minister and may even be concerned about who might take her or his place.  Will the new person be open to establishing healthy relationships with church members?  How will church members have to change to work with the new person?

These are the experiences of life.  The only way to deal with these liminal spaces, these times of uncertainty and change, is to keep moving.  Take the next step.  Be willing to address what comes in a positive way, seeking God’s support as we do so.  Liminal space is not only a time of loss but of promise.

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