With Christ in Liminal Space

By Mildred Gerner

One of my favorite Easter season scriptures is Luke 24:13-35.   A couple of Jesus’ disciples were walking the 10 miles home to Emmaus after His traumatic crucifixion in Jerusalem.  Their souls were shocked and their hopes shattered.  A curious stranger showed up to walk alongside them, listening to them and offering wise words.  It wasn’t until the evening meal that they realized the stranger was the Resurrected Savior, Jesus!   I invite you to ponder the story for yourself. 

It strikes me that like those disciples, we too are walking in bewilderment.  The communal crisis of COVID 19 has thrust us onto a similar road, a path between the “now and the not yet.”   Life as we knew it on New Year’s Day 2020 has undoubtedly been disrupted.  We’re at a threshold of faith Richard Rohr calls “liminal space” (limina is the Latin word for “threshold”).   We can describe it as a time and place between where we’ve been and where we’re going.  Life is no longer “business as usual”, but neither is there a new normal, with rules and expectations.  In fact, we hardly even know what a new normal will look like.  Consequently, liminal space is very uncomfortable and it affects us in every way – mentally, physically, spiritually, emotionally, economically, etc.

Consider Abraham leaving his father and homeland for an unknown destination.  And the Israelites wandering 40 years in the desert between Egypt and Israel.  Jonah in the belly of a sea monster.  The disciples hiding behind closed doors after Jesus was crucified.  Liminal space was for them, and for us, essential to the faith journey.

So what are we to do in the disorientation of our current “liminal space”?  Do we work hard to pull life back to the way it was, when we had more control?  Take a breath and imagine yourself dwelling in the unsettledness long enough to recognize it as the realm of the Holy Spirit, your Comforter, who is opening up possibilities for transformation you’ve never considered.  Would you relax a little?  Would you be more reliant on God for a new reality?  Would you dare to hope again?

Liminal space is a disturbing paradox in the spiritual journey.  It breaks us down, then offers us an opportunity to come alive with a new vision of the Resurrected Christ.  With awareness of His Presence, we can not only survive our disappointments and losses during COVID 19, we can eventually thrive in gratitude, resilience, joy and recovery.