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Liminal Space

The trusty Dictionary says that “liminal” means “of, relating to, or being an intermediate state, phase, or condition.” I looked up this word “liminal” just to be sure I was using it right, and I may or may not be. But I wanna think about this in-between space anyway. This space after something has finished and before the next thing starts. And I think there’s something surprisingly important about this space we find ourselves in from day to day.

Maybe we’ve picked the kids up from school and we’re headed home for the next thing. There’s a space in there that is perhaps just as important as the thing we’ve come from, the thing we’re headed to. Maybe we’re just waiting, it seems, for a meeting to start, for a class to start. But that waiting space holds possibility; for conversation, for something that may be just as important as the thing before and behind. John Lennon said “life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.” I don’t want this to be me.

Father Richard Rohr even calls this liminal space “the sacred space.” He says “Get there often and stay as long as you can by whatever means possible…This is the sacred space where the old world is able to fall apart, and a bigger world is revealed. If we don’t encounter liminal space in our lives, we start idealizing normalcy. The threshold is God’s waiting room. Here we are taught openness and patience as we come to expect an appointment with the divine Doctor.” This is the kind of space you see in the scriptures when the people are wandering in the wilderness, when Jesus takes time to rest in the wilderness. It’s these times of waiting, yes. But not only that, it’s sacred.

I went to pick up my daughter from Vacation Bible School last night, and parents were still arriving, so a clump of First Christian kids began to gather around a bench. And I could have nabbed my daughter and headed home, I almost did. After all, it was time for bed. But I just happened to see my chance to live in this “in-between space” with the kids for a just a few moments. So I sat, and I made them share their snack with me, and they did, not too reluctantly! I got to talk with one kid about how he got hit in the stomach. That’s no fun. Another kid and I made up a game where we threw his flip-flop in the flower pot, and points were randomly assigned by the designated flip-flop thrower. I think he won.

It was perfect. Sacred even. And to think, I could’ve missed it.