Tuesday, August 18, 2015
This Thin Place in Life
I walk through doors into seemingly empty spaces, lobbies, hallways in homes, hotels, businesses. Usually, I pass through without thinking about these transition areas. They're not meant for you to stay in them. These passages allow us to get out of the sun, wipe our shoes, or prepare to leave the building.
They're areas that connect a more important place to another more important place. Those places typically are more important than these transition spaces. They're given room numbers or names. Hallways don't usually get names.
My office at home is overflowing with books and paperwork. Surprising isn't it? Here I am, this tech person who has always preferred electronic documents and works in an industry that ostensibly reduces the need for paperwork, and yet I am inundated with physical words and numbers.
The family room is likewise loaded with symbols of relaxation: tv, sofas, games, tables, current books, memorabilia, remote controls. It's a pleasurable den to have quality time with my husband and to let go of external concerns.
And in between the two rooms is a hallway. It's a rather simple passage, a couple frames hanging, a dark wooden floor in the shadows of a space that needs little illumination.
Yet I traverse that hallway many times each day. I cannot get to the other rooms without passing the hall. It's a transition space between one aspect of my life and another. The hallway has no mirrors, as some do, so it doesn't show me what I look like when I am in this place.
But it's a liminal place, a ritualistic moment between what was and what will be next. Some have compared liminal places to a space between rooms. I use the hallway often, and yet it has occurred to me that it is akin to my place in life right now.
To anthropologists, liminality is that middle time during a series of rituals, when you're not what you were but not yet what you will be. It can be unsettling, being neither in nor out. We don't often think about these transition times and places because we would rather define ourselves as sitting being in one place or another.
And yet on a spiritual pilgrimage, on our individual Caminos, during our discernment, in our grieving, in our growing, we are always reminding others and ourselves that it's not the destination that is our goal. Our destination is a guidepost, a beacon to focus on so that we don't get lost. But it's in this transitional journey that we reorder ourselves psychologically, spiritually, emotionally.
What makes this transitional place so exciting and so scary is that it's often a thin place, where one senses the divine. I'm not saying that I see God whenever I walk through my dark hallway. But in the corridors of life, we sometimes go down ways that aren't as predictable and automatic as usual. That's where I'm walking right now. There are untested doors and I feel as though I'm somehow not alone.
When I first started to attend All Saints Pasadena regularly, I was like others drawn to the phrase "Wherever you are in your journey of faith, you are welcome at this table." It's an invitation to meet at the table of Christ, regardless of our station, status, or strength. The phrase acknowledges that many of us are on a spiritual journey. It even hints that we all are on one.
Perhaps that's what struck me inside. I was on a spiritual journey and was only then, slowly, unwittingly discovering it. My walk was and has been about realizing that in the thin space that is in Christ, I am in a liminal place, straddling the world and the divine.
I'm not in one place or another, but I'm not alone, and I feel excited to be alive. I wander towards the other rooms in wonder and awe.