So, we recently moved to Northwest Oregon and I’ve realized a few things. First, this beautiful place, for being as far north as it is, it doesn’t do snow. In the mountains and passes, yes. But in the everyday driving in the Willamette Valley and I-5 corridor…just no. I grew up in northern Ohio, have lived in Russia, Mongolia and Alaska, and snow wasn’t an issue unless we received 6 or more inches in one shot. But here, the mere threat of snow….done, closed, cancelled, out. Recently, we had a snowfall of about an inch or so. In the three mile drive from our exit to the next exit, there were two pickup trucks in the median, another flipped over on it’s side, and two cars with the front ends wrecked. Crazy. There were a few cars pulled off on the shoulder of the highway, but there didn’t appear to be anything wrong. I assume they were just not sure what to do next….move forward or simply ride it out until the storm passed. They were simply sitting on the shoulder.
In an earlier post, I wrote about reflecting on where you’ve been by re-reading things you may have written in your journal. I did this and found something that was coming at a point I was shouldered (well, one of the times I have been shouldered). I want to pull out one bit that I journaled about on February 9th, 2015. It has to do with that of “liminal space.” Richard Rohr defines liminal space as “the place of transition, waiting, and not knowing is…a unique spiritual position where human beings hate to be but where the biblical God is always leading them. It is when you have let the tried and true, but have not yet been able to replace it with anything else. It is when you are finally out of the way. It is when you are between your old comfort zone and any possible new answer. If you are not trained in how to hold anxiety, how to live with ambiguity, how to entrust and wait, you will run…anything to flee this terrible cloud of unknowing.” He goes onto say that we begin to ask the question of “now what?” which isn’t bad, but gives the idea that there is one perfect utopian thing on the other side of this space that will fix all our “problems.” And, if we don’t find it, we’ll be in this place forever. I must say, I don’t believe this is true. At least, I no longer believe this is true.
I used to believe that there was ONE soulmate, ONE calling on my life forever, ONE perfect set of choices in this life and if just one of those were “wrong” then my whole life would be wasted. I also used to believe that if there was pain as a result of a choice I made, that that was a “wrong” choice. How incredibly legalistic, bleak, dismal, disheartening and oppressive that is. That is quite the opposite of living a life of freedom, isn’t it? Are their consequences for our actions? Yes, absolutely. And sometimes there are painful consequences for doing the right thing or living our lives for Jesus.
There is no one perfect utopian thing on the other side of transition. Why? As Rohr suggests, it’s because “change doesn’t exist in a box.” Just like our God. People have free will, and therefore, change will constantly exist and not be able to be contained, regulated or predicted. And again, neither can God.
So what are we to do with this time and space? Run? Sure, we can run. In fact, that’s what we often do-we escape. If we run, then we will most likely be caught up in this place again, trying to figure out what to do next. We miss the moment to learn what God is doing in that moment, what he’s doing in us. Believe me, I am notorious for moving on too quickly and not really taking the time to look around at what God has for me in the moments of my day or in these liminal moments of my life. Grief is a huge one that many have a hard time sitting in and with. Or when it comes to a relational issue we run by either trying to fix the issue or escape it completely instead of trying as much as we can to reconcile it. This transition place is just like one of those moments-God having something for us, we just need to allow to sit in the space for awhile. But, my word, it is so incredibly hard to not run for the hills with whatever we have left in tow.
These could be part of what St. John of the Cross coined a “dark night of the soul.” Or, what others have called a “desert.” But a liminal space is it’s own place of unknowing. God may be speaking clearly to you, perhaps clearer than ever before. He may also seem incredibly close to you. But this space is simply one of not knowing the life that is coming down the pike, nor what direction to head in, nor whether to simply sit in it and for how long.
So, I sit. Shouldered in another liminal space. Just like a car that simply quit and the driver has no idea why. It simply won’t work. I can’t go forward or backward, but sit on the shoulder and figure out what I need to do next. I was in one the spring of 2015, and here I sit in yet another one. I am worried, concerned and fearful, yes. I would be lying and, dare I say, not a human being if I wasn’t. But I learned before that He is here and He will not let me be destroyed. And I know this from reflecting on my past. I have learned that it is imperative to have a separate set of eyes (or five) as I walk through this time. A coach, spiritual director, soul friend, mentor, sponsor or any other person who is sensitive to the Spirit that can listen for His guiding alongside me is so very important. They are far more objective than I am as they are removed from whatever fog I’m in.
A good portion of what is written on this blog is from times I was in the desert, liminal space, dealing with a time of fog. It seems as though I’ve been in those places almost as much as not these past 12 years or so. Sure there are things that are current, the now, what will be. But my responses and thoughts on those things are from these spaces I’ve walked through. I think it is in these times that our other senses are fine tuned. Hopefully what is written here will do the same for you…allow the Spirit to finely tune in those other senses. Especially when you’re shouldered.
be blessed today