So much of the time -- especially during this Lenten season -- we feel we are living our lives in some sort of transitional state; waiting for change, not quite attuned to where we are, not quite certain where we're headed.
One of the pieces in my Contemplative Alphabet (now called Yearning) was originally entitled "Liminal Space." I had printed up the first half of the alphabet for an exhibit, but the rest of it was still evolving, and by the time I was asked to print the second half, I had come up with the piece called Labyrinth.
Because I couldn't have two L pieces and I had nothing for Y, I renamed Liminal Space to be Yearning and reprinted it with the new title. Which meant I had an extra print called Liminal Space, which, unlike the rest of my alphabet, hasn't been circulating around the country, but instead lives on the wall behind my computer monitor; I look up at it often.
It's not here right now though, because I've loaned it out again. I have several friends who are in liminal spaces right now, and when they come into my office they see the print and identify with it. I don't know if this is just how life IS right now, or this is just the sort of friends I connect with, but clearly that sense of being stalled, between, in-waiting, expectant, anxious... however each person characterizes it, it's there; it's a fact of life -- and that seems particularly true during Lent.
This morning, reading John O'Donohue, I learned a slightly different take on this idea of liminal space. What if we don't see it as a place we're stuck and waiting, but rather as a threshold?
"It remains the dream of every life to realize itself, to reach out and lift oneself up to greater heights. A life that continues to remain on the safe side of its own habits and repetitions, that never engages with the risk of its own posibility, remains an unlived life. There is within each heart a hidden voice that calls out for freedom and creativity. We often linger for years in spaces that are too small and shabby for the grandeur of our spirit...
Looking back along a life's journey, you come to see how each of the central phases of your life began at a decisive threshold where you left one way of being and entered another. A threshold is not simply an accidental line that happens to separate one region from another. It is an intense frontier that divides a world of feeling from another. Often a threshold becomes clearly visible only once you have crossed it. Crossing can often mean the total loss of all you enjoyed while on the other side; it becomes a dividing line between the past and the future...It is interesting that when Jesus cured the blind man, he instructed him not to go back into the village. Having crossed the threshold into vision, his life was no longer to be lived in the constricted mode of blindness; new vision meant new pastures.
Today many people describe themselves as "being in transition."...yet the word transition seems to be pale... inadequate and impersonal, and does not bear the same intensity or psychic weight as perhaps the word threshold evokes. The word threshold was related to the word thresh, which was the separation of the grain from the husk or straw when oats were flailied. It also includes the notions of entrance, crossing, border and beginning. To cross a threshold is to leave behind the husk and arrive at the grain."
If you, too, find yourself in transition, and chafing with the waiting, what happens if you shift your focus a bit and see this point in your life as a threshold? What is the husk you need to leave behind? What is the grain of your new life, and what steps will you need to cross the threshold into your next germination?
NOTE: All John O'Donohue quotations are from his wonderful book of blessings, To Bless the Space Between Us (© John O’Donohue. All rights reserved). To learn more about John O'Donohue, be sure to visit his website: www.johnodonohue.com