Whenever we deal with endings and a new beginnings, with overlap between them, we are in what Anthropologist Victor Turner calls “liminal spaces.” Liminal spaces are the in-between places of our lives, times when we are in transition, on the threshold: that first week in the new house; beginning life as newlyweds (not single anymore and yet not quite a mature couple); those times we wait for the results of medical tests of the beginning of a new therapy (unsure of how our lives might suddenly be turned upside down). In a sense, whenever we are unsure what will happen next, we are in the liminal spaces of our lives.
Even a cursory reading of the Acts of the Apostles shows us that the first followers of Jesus, after the Resurrection and because of their encounter with the Risen Jesus, were no longer who they were before, but they were not yet the people they would soon be. They, too, were in a liminal space
Liminal space, as Victor Turner describes it, can be disorienting, uncomfortable, and frightening. But it is also where growth happens and where new perspectives appear. Are we ourselves open to growth and new perspectives? The Risen Jesus is constantly inviting us to follow Him into newness of life, but we can’t follow Him if we stay where we are. Our decision to follow Jesus is not a single moment in time, but a lifetime of turning to Him and seeking first His Kingdom, all of which began with our baptism. To be a Christian, then, means to live always on the threshold of this life and the next.
What makes the liminal spaces bearable, whether they’re physical or spiritual, is first, the sure knowledge that God walks with us, and second, the reality that others are in the same situation.
From an article circulated by God’s Girls (one of our parish’s active and powerful prayer groups):
“Liminal space is an inner state and sometimes an outer situation where we can begin to think and act in new ways. It is where we are betwixt and between, having left one room or stage of life, but not yet entered the next. We usually enter liminal space when our former way of being is challenged or changed—perhaps when we lose a job or a loved one, during illness, at the birth of a child, or a major relocation. It is a graced time, but often does not always feel ‘graced.’ In such space, we are not certain or in control. This global pandemic we now face is an example of an immense, collective liminal space. The very vulnerability and openness of liminal space allows room for something genuinely new to happen. We are empty and receptive—erased tablets waiting for new words.”
The whole article from Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM can be found here: https://cac.org/between-two-worlds-2020-04-26/