The Sublime of the Liminal Space


I’m sat waiting to cross over into to Holy Island for the day; Jesus has gone before me , but the tide is not quite letting me follow right now. I have less than an hour to wait though before I cross over into the stunning view that I currently enjoy from the warmth of the cafe in which I have ensconced myself.

As I wait, I’ve been thinking about a short podcast that I listened to on my way here this morning by Barbara Brown Taylor on liminality. It’s so lovely when you find others who are older, wiser and who have found a language to describe events in your own life that are as yet indescribable by yourself. Like an artist perhaps who paints a seemingly abstract work, only to find that it’s meaning lies in the words of others.

The English word liminal comes from the Latin for threshold; the opening of one room into another. A crossing over. The anthropologist (I have leaned) Victor Turner uses it to describe the in-between stage in a rite of passage, where the initiate leaves their old life, but has not yet quite moved into the new. Karl Yaspers uses the word to describe the space between two word views, or two empires even, where human beings ask unprecedented questions about reality, as their grasp on life as they know it is loosened.

As I enter the beginning of the fourth year of my own liminal journey, I have much to reflect upon today. The way that I have finally found rest in the uncertain. What I have discarded of the old life, what I have retained and what I have re-discovered, found only by the emptying the rucksack of my life onto the floor and trawling through it. The realisation perhaps that I no longer mourn the past, the shift in my priorities, the new foundations that I am just beginning to get used to and the song ‘I’ve got new shoes on’ that I find so hard to escape! A fresh, cool breeze is blowing, somehow familiar and yet also exciting and new.

There is a great deal of liminality around. As a nation, we occupy the liminal place of political uncertainty; unprecedented times. And yet, are they? The context may be new, but the process is as old as time itself. My morning office today led me to Psalm 46 and the timeless words ‘Be still, and know that I am God’. We need not fear the time, nor the season. But we should be attentive.

Today I look to spend a few precious hours in the stillness that that ancient paths can only bring. Be still.

Categories: Devotional

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