Liminal space

A colleague of mine recently introduced me to the concept of liminality – the situation of disorientation that occurs between to places or situations. The idea has its roots in thinking about rites of passage, those transition ceremonies that an individual would go through as they move from one phase of life to another. It has also been used as a concept in other arenas. One area I’ve found fascinating is its use in design – the creation of rooms or spaces that are supposed to throw the visitor a little off-balance before they reach their destination.

I’ve also found it helpful as a way of thinking about the time we are living in right now. The old way of doing things has ended and we are now in a period of disorientation before the new way becomes clear.

Disorientation and discomfort are not easy environments to exist in, especially for an extended period of time. But, in the liminal process, they are important stages in order to be fully prepared to move into the next space and we shouldn’t rush through them.

I keep reflecting on the time that the Israelites were wandering in the wilderness. Was that their liminal space? When they ran out of Egypt (Exodus 14) did they expect to be in their new homeland within days, or weeks? Did they really expect it to be 40 years and what was God teaching them in that time? Their lives didn’t just stop but they hadn’t reached their destination.

If this is our preparation time, our liminal space, are we paying attention to how we grow in this time, or are we just wishing it were over?

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