© 2016 by Charles D. Jones

Liminality

February 24, 2018

From the Latin word "limen" meaning threshold of a physiological or psychological response, liminality is an in-between state of mind or situation. In our life, it might occur when we retire and are trying to decide what to do with the rest of our life. Perhaps a marriage or relationship has ended or the last child has left the nest for college. Perhaps we've been single and are on the threshold of marriage.

 

Richard Rohr writes in Adams Return that "liminality is an inner state and sometimes an outer situation where people can begin to think and act in genuine new ways. It's when we are betwixt and between, have left one room but not yet entered the next room...when we are not certain or in control, when something genuinely new can happen." Sometimes we willingly set foot on the threshold toward something new, sometimes we are pushed, but liminality is necessary for transformation. We all need to be continually spiritually transformed because we never love enough. We're never where we could to be.

 

The Bible is also full of stories about liminality. Moses was on the threshold of a response for 40 long years while working for his father-in-law in Midian. Later he led the Jews out of Egypt to the threshold of the Jordan River before it was decided that they would not cross it for still another 40 years. Jonah was on the threshold of responding when he spent 3 days inside a great fish. Jesus was in the wilderness for 40 days and in the tomb for 3 days, both times on the threshold of his calling. Paul was blind for 3 days after he encountered the risen Christ but before his ministry. 

 

Bastrop Federal Satellite Camp has actually helped me with liminal transformation in some respects. One way it's helped is that I now have a much better understanding of the pain, injustice, and absurdity of Jim Crow, property red lining, the War on Drugs, voter ID requirements, selective law enforcement, mass incarceration, and eliminating immigration from "shit-hole countries." All these examples of institutional fear have made America worse, not better. Their unstated premise was/is a bias meant to punish a race of people. I've known the bias existed, but I've never lived with the direct victims and seen the consequences up close. It's heartbreaking to sit in a federal prison visitation room and see the impact of these policies lived out in broken families. That sight alone changes everything for me. But sometimes our hearts have to break a little so that the cracks can let in light.

 

The late Leonard Cohen said this so well in his song "Anthem." 
     You can add up the parts
     but you won't have the sum
     You can strike up the march,
     there is no drum
     Every heart, every heart 
     to love will come
     but like a refugee.

     

     Ring the bells that still can ring
     Forget your perfect offering
     There is a crack, a crack in everything
     That's how the light gets in.

Please reload