Liminal spaces are the spaces in between.  They are the places where there are no routines or expectations, where border-less ambiguities replace the security that we’re so accustomed to.  Liminality is not comfortable.  It can induce a fear that gnaws away at the spirit.  I find myself in a liminal space as I wait for God to begin writing the next chapter in my ministry and my life.  Liminality is not fun.

The Desert Fathers of the middle ages believed that liminality was an indispensable component of spiritual formation.  They chose to live in the Egyptian desert (a very liminal place) in order to preserve a state of perpetual liminality.  I say nuts to that!  I crave my comforts and my luxuries.  I’d be more suited to joining an order of Dessert Fathers.  I would sit around with the rest of the Dessert Fathers ordering hot fudge sundaes, telling the waiter to add nuts to that.

Yet I think the Desert Fathers were on to something.  God often calls his children into the liminal spaces.  He called Abraham out of Ur to take a journey into the unknown.  The children of Israel wandered in a desert for 40 years before they entered the promised land.  And Jesus fasted for forty days in the desert at the beginning of his public ministry.  So what is it about experiencing liminality?  I think that when we are in a liminal state we don’t have our regular routines and securities – a steady job,  sound finances, physical health, etc.   We come to the point when our only security is God.  We come to the point where we really need God’s promises to be true, because there’s nothing else for us to fall back on.  But do we ever really have other things to fall back on?  All those other things are illusions.  Liminality dispells illusions.  Perhaps it is only in the liminal spaces that we see how dependent we really are upon God.  Liminality breeds clarity.  It is a gift.  It teaches us that God is our sole source of security.  I’m still learning.

2 Thoughts to “In a Liminal Space”

  1. I couldn’t help but respond to your blog on “liminality”. Wikipedia’s definition of “liminality” includes: “Transition: One’s sense of identity dissolves to some extent, bringing about disorientation. Liminality is a period of transition where normal limits to thought, self-understanding and behaviour are relaxed – a situation which can lead to new perspectives. The liminal state is characterized by ambiguity, openness and indeterminacy”. From a personal perspective, I’ve been living through “liminality” for the last 2 years, and it can be both terrifying and liberating when many things, including some Christian belief systems, are stripped away. They will require re-working and re-assimilation at this tail-end of “liminality”. I have been studying the Desert Fathers for the last 2 years and I agree with you “that they were definitely on to something”. Could it be possible that there are other Christians reading your Blog who are suffering the painful transition of “liminality” and could it be even more possible that it is none other than God Himself who is stripping away our preconceived notions of who He is and who we are in Him?

  2. Dear Geoff,

    I heard someone say « Safety is not found in the absence of danger but in the presence of God.»

    Thank you for your thoughts and contemplation.

    Peace be with you

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