How to live in the tension and grace of the liminal space

Life rarely turns out as we expect. It's unpredictable and seldom unfolds as we anticipate. Sometimes what is known is lost, changes or stops and we find ourselves facing what is unknown and unfamiliar.

As we go through these unexpected life phases we can find ourselves in an in-between space which author and theologian Richard Rohr describes as 'when we are betwixt and between, have left one room but not yet entered the next room, any hiatus between stages of life, stages of faith, jobs, loves or relationships'.

A threshold can be the gateway to new experiences and understandings.Pixabay

This space is the liminal space. Liminal comes from the latin 'limen' which means 'on the threshold'. A liminal space is a transitional space, where we are leaving something behind that feels comfortable and safe while not really knowing what lies ahead, a space where we feel as if we are on the threshold between what is behind and what is in front. It can be a place of great tension but also of great grace. It is a place where we can let go of what we've been holding and stretch out tentative fingers to explore what's next.

A liminal space can be a quiet space where we can just be, where we can pause, breathe and live in the moment. It can be a thought-provoking space to ask questions and to wrestle with answers. It can be a challenging space to re-examine faith, grapple with doubts, confront fears, and an exhilarating space to explore hopes and re-imagine dreams.

It can also be a tense space, as we live with the discomfort of uncertainty and confusion. If we can embrace the tension of the liminal experience, if we can appreciate the process of the space and allow God's Spirit to be at the centre of our processing, this space can be a place of new experiences and amazing grace. It can be a safe space which gives God time to partner with us in helping us become our best selves, where he works with us to deal with the stuff that damages us and hurts others. It can be the place where he teaches us something new and where he can unearth in us an undiscovered gift.

While we exist in this space it can feel as if the next thing is never going to happen. But delay doesn't mean denial; it is often in delay that God teaches us how to live in his hope. Hope is the 'anticipation of good things'. Martin Luther King Jr understood the significance of hope when in August, 1963 he stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and said, 'If you lose hope, somehow you lose the vitality that keeps life moving, you lose that courage to be, that quality that helps you go on in spite of it all. And so today I still have a dream.'

The liminal space is where God can give us that fresh vitality and purpose to keep our lives moving, where we can develop courage and boldness to be overcomers and conquerors as we battle with our fears. The liminal space is where we mature strength and quality of character as we choose to persevere and to go on in spite of. It is a place to grow the faith needed to have confidence in what we hope for so that we too can still have a dream.

As we journey through the in-between place, we begin to believe that genuine change is possible. We start to experience peace in the confusion, joy in the discomfort and clarity in the uncertainty.

The liminal space is a precious gift which we would be remiss to ignore and not value. It is a gift of our very own thin place where heaven's riches can touch our personal earth. We should linger in this space for as long as we possibly can, making the most of every tense and grace-filled moment. We should stay in this betwixt and between place until our spirits are matured, our souls are satisfied and our hearts start to beat with the anticipation that the best Is yet to come.

Mandy Bayton is The Cinnamon Network Advisor for Wales and a freelance writer. Follow her on Twitter @mandyebayton