Liminality

My car was inspected two weeks ago. It’s an older car, and inevitably needs some work, which we always figure as being our ‘car payment,’ and it hurts much less that way. This was no different – that beautiful Ford Focus needed some engine mounts and exhaust work and small nickels and dimes, which gathered into fifties and hundreds. Then, 2 days later, I changed the battery (all by myself!!!) after it folded its arms and refused to take me home from church, pouting like a petulant child.
And now it’s perfect, again.
Yesterday, Angel handed me the garage receipts I had brought inside, for the files, and said, “Put these in your car.”
This is not unusual, it’s our standard practice – to keep them in our glove compartments for years and years. One that neither of us had ever questioned. Until yesterday.
I said, “I know we keep them there. But I brought them in, on purpose.”
“Well, put them back in.”
“Why?”
“That’s where we keep them.”
“I know, but why?”
This, very quickly, and before I could notice, descended into, “Well, then, don’t. I don’t care what you do.”
I didn’t think I deserved an “I don’t care what you do,” as I have always been the kind of person that asks 3 too many ‘why’s,’ of everyone and everything, especially my lovely wife (which may be exactly why I did deserve it). But when I do ask, no matter where I ask, I often get the same answer, “because that’s how we’ve always done things.”
And, in the spiritual life, that can be so dangerous and the enemy of actual growth.
Richard Rohr writes, “We keep praying that our illusions will fall away. God erodes them from many sides, hoping they will fall. But we often remain trapped in what we call normalcy–“the way things are.” Life then revolves around problem-solving, fixing, explaining, and taking sides with winners and losers. It can be a pretty circular and even nonsensical existence.
To get out of this unending cycle, we have to allow ourselves to be drawn into sacred space, into liminality. All transformation takes place here. We have to allow ourselves to be drawn out of “business as usual” and remain patiently on the “threshold” (limen, in Latin) where we are betwixt and between the familiar and the completely unknown. There alone is our old world left behind, while we are not yet sure of the new existence. That’s a good space where genuine newness can begin. Get there often and stay as long as you can by whatever means possible. It’s the realm where God can best get at us because our false certitudes are finally out of the way. 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.”
This normalcy, this business-as-usual, has, sadly, been the golden calf of religion. We take a practice, tradition, ritual, and we siphon any meaning out of it until it is just motions, cutting on the dotted line, just tracing our lives over the lines already there without any thought as to meaning or purpose. Without a why.
In the Scriptures, God says, “I want you to show love, not offer sacrifices. I want you to know me, more than I want burnt offerings.” (Hos. 6:6) This is wildly unexpected because, in the Old Testament, sacrifices and burnt offering were commanded, the way to come closer to God. But God has always wanted our hearts, not merely our routines. We have replaced sacrifices and burnt offering with church attendance and liturgy.
Being a part of a faith community that is created out of God’s word, calling, and the Cleona dust, independent of any denominations, we are also independent of any ‘because that’s the way we’ve always done it’ reasoning.
We can engage in the Lord’s Table and Baptism, because stripped of their status as requirements, we are able to discover them anew.
Today, we have been invited to fast, for as long as we desire. We have been invited to replace our food with our devotion – our fast as a “bodily expression of prayer.” This fast is nothing we ‘have to’ do. Instead, we are free to bring all of us (our bodies, souls, minds, spirits) before our Creator, to share all of us with the One who made all of us, to enter this sacred ‘luminal space’ (as Rohr calls it) where God can tear down the old world we’ve constructed and reveal a bigger one.
If I am honest, I am not yet enjoying it. Maybe it’s not supposed to be enjoyable. Tearing down the walls we’ve built hardly ever is. Transformation hardly ever is. But it’s always worth it.

One comment

  1. Excellent analogies and expressions of our vision, Chad. Reminds of the story “cutting the end off the ham.” Tell you tonight or the next family connect…

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