This year has been one of living in liminal space for me. The Merriam Webster dictionary defines the word liminal as “of, relating to, or being an intermediate state, phase, or condition: in-between, transitional.” That concept of “in-between-ness” has marked my year. Transitioning from my job doing prison ministry to joining Campus Edge. Transitioning from life in Kalamazoo to life in Lansing. Even transitioning from life as we knew it to life during a pandemic and its associated adjustments. This year has been a year of waiting, transition and change.
Transition used to be something I avoided at all costs. But lately I’ve grown to value transitions. New semesters, new classes, new places to live all provide a chance to make new decisions. They allow us to create new patterns in our lives. There has been a ton of speculation on how the pandemic, this year of waiting for things to reopen and normalize, will shape our decisions and lives moving forward. Will the patterns we created become part of our new routines? Will we jump back into all of our roles, activities and habits from before, or will we make new choices after having lived in this liminal space?
We see people faced with that same set of questions over and over in the Bible. When the Israelites left Egypt they made a new choice to follow God. When they came to the promised land they renewed their relationship with God. In living in exile, returning from exile and waiting for the Messiah to come – the nation of Israel lived with liminality for centuries. The prophets even encouraged them to live in that liminal space, Jeremiah told the people to “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce” (Jeremiah 29:5) while waiting to come back from exile. God wanted their lives to flourish. God wanted them to thrive. Sometimes the people managed to follow God, to change their lives. Sometimes they fell back into old patterns.
Even Christ’s description of his Kingdom has a liminal aspect. When the disciples decided to follow Jesus they stepped into the “already-but-not-yet” nature of Jesus’ kingdom on earth. Jesus was on earth showing people a glimpse of his kingdom and pointing them to an even more glorious future marked by the Spirit’s dwelling in believers’ hearts and the eventual coming of the New Heaven and New Earth. He was living and leading in liminal space.
So, what does it mean for us as Christians to live in liminality? It means we realize that the world we are living in is not perfect, but that we can catch glimpses of God’s kingdom right here and right now. For us today God’s kingdom is in every act of love and kindness, every action we take that is Spirit lead and faith driven. It is here when we gather together as Christians and when we pause to reflect with thankfulness on everything that God has given us. The year has held grief and loss and been one full of transitions. But it can also be full of hope as we look toward the choices we make as things “get back to normal”.