“Honor the space between no longer and not yet.” - Nancy Levin
I’m a podcast junkie. One of my favorite things to do is turn a podcast on in the car and revel in 20 minutes of nerdy, random, (usually useful) information.
At risk of sounding even more eccentric than I already have painted myself, I’ll stop my praise of podcasts here and cut to the chase: I recently listened to a podcast put on by an art collective called Makers and Mystics. The host interviewed singer/songwriter Sarah Deshields of the band Broadcast Safe. It’s an album produced by Sarah and her husband, and if you like the kind of music only describable as ethereal folk music, Broadcast Safe is the band for you.
The album explores themes of trusting God, creative expression, and something called Liminal Space. The concept of liminal space has recently come across my radar, so as soon as I finished listening to the podcast I knew I had to dig deeper.
The word “liminal” has its roots in Latin, meaning “threshold.” The Psychology Today article I read quotes two different authors to explain what Liminal Space really means:
“… It is when you have left the tried and true, but have not yet been able to replace it with anything else. It is when you are between your old comfort zone and any possible new answer. If you are not trained in how to hold anxiety, how to live with ambiguity, how to entrust and wait, you will run…anything to flee this terrible cloud of unknowing.” - Richard Rohr
“Participants "stand at the threshold" between their previous way of structuring their identity, time, or community, and a new way. Continuity of tradition may become uncertain, and future outcomes once taken for granted may be thrown into doubt. - Wikipedia
Liminal space is the space in between. This can be an emotional in between - say, moving from one job to another - or a physical in between, such as an airport or stairway or a dark hallway.
I saw a blog post long ago (author unknown) that contended that our human brains are hardwired for context. We want to know why thing are the way they are, we want to be at the destination, and we don’t like the unknown and uncategorizable. When we can’t say for sure what spot of life we are in, or we know we are waiting for something to arrive, or some thing to happen, we feel unsettled. Out of place. Untethered.
Sarah Deshields explained that the songs on her album explored this feeling. She struggled with undiagnosed postpartum depression, and just wanted a key out of the quagmire of unsettledness she was experiencing. She prayed that she could move forward from this place of uncertainty and “in between.”
But then she realized - Jesus was right there with her in the middle of the waiting. He wasn’t waiting at the end of the tunnel, he was there, even at that moment. In the Bible we hear two prominent stories involving Jesus and water. Number one, the apostles and Jesus are caught in a storm while in their fishing boat. They cry out for Jesus -- the storm unsettled them. But Jesus was right there the whole time with them; they never needed to worry. Number two, Peter recognizes Jesus walking to them on the water and jumps out of the boat to walk to Him. He starts sinking in the water between the safety of the boat and Jesus. Again, Jesus was right there with him, pulling him out of the water, staying beside him.
People - myself included - are impatient. We want things to happen, now. We want to know why something has happened, and we want to know now. We want to know our purpose, right now.
But sometimes, the beauty is in the waiting.
Advent started last Sunday. It’s truly a season of waiting. We are all ultimately in a “liminal space” of in between, waiting for the new life we have in Christ.
Whatever you are waiting for, I challenge you to be present in it. You're in liminal space, and maybe...
it’s exactly where you're supposed to be.