I love learning new words. Not just for the value of learning itself, but how, many times, a new word will help me understand something in a new way or help give a perspective that I hadn’t seen before. I hope you will bear with me as I explain one such word that I recently learned, it may not be new to you, but it’s the word liminal. (The first part is pronounced like the word ‘limb.’) It’s a fairly obscure word (in fact, WordPress thinks it’s a misspelled word) that is derived from the Latin word, limen, which means ‘threshold.’ Liminal means, ‘situated at the limen,’ or ‘situated at the threshold.’ To be in liminality (the noun form of the word) means that one is at a place of transition, a place of moving from one phase of life to another, like the time during a graduation ceremony or a wedding. A person in liminality is finished or is stepping away from one thing, from one phase of life, but has not yet stepped fully into what is to come.
As I was learning this word, which was introduced to me at a conference by Daniel Vestal, one helpful image that came to mind is that of a trapeze artist who has leaped from one swing, but has not yet taken hold of another swing or another trapeze artist’s hands; they are in a suspended state, they can’t go back to where they were, but they are not yet at where they are going. This is a space of excitement, fear, adventure, worry, thrill, unknown, and hopefulness all wrapped into one moment.
Those of you who are familiar with my story can see why this word resonates with me right now. I, and my family, are in a state of liminality right now. We have left one thing behind, we have stepped away from our ministry in Orleans, but we are not yet where we will be in the future. We are at the threshold of our future, but as we are reaching out our arms to take hold of what God is leading us to, we reach out to uncertainty.
As I reflect on this time in our life, and as I think on this word, liminal, I realize that for the disciple, for the follow of Christ, this is not just something we go through at different phases in our lives, but rather this is to be the state we are always in. As each of us stands on the thresholds of our own futures there is only One who knows that future. There is only One who holds that future. Every moment of our lives ought to be lived standing on this threshold and leaping out in faith that God will not only catch us, but will plant our feet on His good ground.
The words that come to mind to help explain this are Paul’s words from the second chapter of his letter to the churches in the region of Galatia, Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
My life is no longer my own. My future is no longer my own. The life of the follower of Christ, the life that I want to live, is one of complete faith in God, complete surrender to Him, opening myself to Him, leaping into His future, trusting that He is good, that He is wise, that He is secure and strong.