Keeping the Faith During Liminal Spaces

Dear Friends of St. David’s,

During the season of Lent, we live in a liminal space, awaiting Easter’s restoration and transformation forty days later. We unsettle ourselves by taking on disciplines, or giving up things we rely on. Ideally, we set aside more time for prayer, scripture, and study to strengthen our knowledge, devotion, and trust of the Holy One’s presence in our lives. Then, when we find ourselves in the many other liminal spaces of our lives, we know how to lay hold of God who brings us hope and survival skills in the unpredictability of life.

A liminal space is the uncertain transition between where we have been and where we are going physically, emotionally, or metaphorically. To be in a liminal space is to stand on the precipice of something new but not quite yet. These spaces can evoke feelings of uneasiness or discomfort because they are not meant for staying, but for passing through. HowStuffWorks.com

We experience a liminal space when we find ourselves between rectors, when we marry, divorce, lose a job or a loved one, are injured, or experience a life changing disease. Most often these begin without warning and may leave us feeling paralyzed, angry, and without control over our lives. We may lash out in ways that surprise those who know us. We hurt so much that we harm those around us, holding them accountable for our loss by lashing out at an innocent bystander.

Our sense of control over our own lives is probably a myth; far safer if we know that we are led by a good shepherd even in the “shadow of death.” Liminal spaces remind us, if we know the Shepherd, that God holds us in safety and strength as we move through the liminal to the place of new hope and rebirth. With the Holy One there is always a future: a future with hope.

Some liminal spaces last longer than others: the death of a child, a sibling, a spouse, the ending of a relationship, sudden illness, or injuries. Through all these spaces, The Holy One beckons us onward until such time as we discern God’s tender care, steadfast love, and the restorative hope in which “life is changed not ended . . . [and] there is prepared for us a dwelling place eternal in the heavens.” Our true self is not defined alone by the events of life here. It anticipates in hope a day that awaits when we emerge from the liminal space and reengage with a life in which we are gently led and transformed.

We are reminded every Lent of the resources available to us for the strengthening of our faith that enable us to move gracefully through these spaces. We are invited to a community of people who are learning to “work out [their] faith with fear and trembling.” We may avail ourselves of the sacrament of the “Reconciliation of a Penitent” when we fail in our negotiation of liminal space. I may need to apologize when I have hurt someone in order to restore “the Beloved Community” God has designed the church to be as a witness to God’s love for all. We may choose to engage a spiritual director or a counselor to walk with us the way of faith encouraging us in prayer, Scripture, wellness, and wisdom. These disciplines prepare us for the liminal spaces ahead of time. We also have the incredible gift of the prayers and support of those who love us in the community of faith, and who mediate the grace of God when we have difficulty seeing it.

I have found I often manage the liminal spaces better if I continue to be faithful to the vocation God has given me. Faithful to God’s call to “do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God” and my siblings.

Blessings,

The Rev. Dr. Peter Stube
Priest Associate

Defender of the Orphan – Jesus Christ as shepherd carrying lost lamb on shoulders Painting by Melani Pyke