“Much of the work of authentic spirituality and human development is to get people into liminal space and to keep them there long enough that they can learn something essential and new.” -Fr. Richard Rohr
“Liminal space” derives from the Latin for “threshold.” It is the space where we are no longer where we were but still not yet where we will be. We have all been in liminal space during the pandemic, on top of other forms of “in-between” people have been experiencing…loss of loved ones, changes in life seasons, or a crisis of faith, to name a few. Rohr says, “The very vulnerability and openness of liminal space allows room for something genuinely new to happen.” It opens us up for transformation.
I find comfort in predictability and deal with anxiety by making plans. Liminal space pulls the rug out from under us so that we can’t prepare with even a shred of illusory certainty. I’ve watched myself vacillate between bustling about, preparing for the unknown (which really can’t be prepared for), then carrying on like nothing has changed though I know deep down I’ve left something and there is No Going Back.When I’m in liminal space, I’m vulnerable to anything that promises a concrete plan or certainty. I’m likely to grasp for something that puts me at ease. There is a time for taking a leap of faith, but we can discern more clearly if we are willing to tolerate the not-knowing. Am I choosing the next step because it alleviates my anxiety, or is it the next right thing?
Eventually, I face reality and see that the only real response is surrender. Centering prayer—when we sit silently and open ourselves to God’s work in us while we practice letting go of each thought and feeling—helps us practice the art of surrender. We find the world doesn’t stop spinning if we pull out of the hustle and bustle, God is at work in us even when we don’t see it, and we can let go and find ourselves held in perfect Love. In this space, we earn no points for good behavior; we are simply allowed to be, and we find that that is enough. The perfect Love that holds us transforms us beyond what we could have achieved in all of our striving.
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