I am thrilled to introduce my sister to you today! (I wrote about her a while back in this post.) She graciously allowed me to talk her into writing something for October’s theme of Uncertainty and Unsettledness. You see, she is currently working on her dissertation. (Very cool, right?!) AND, this dissertation is all about liminality. Don’t know what that means? Neither did I at first!
Please–read on to find out!
I recently found myself waiting at the DMV to renew my driver’s license. With my number next to be called, an announcement came over the intercom that their computers were shut down for an indefinite amount of time and those of us waiting were welcome to continue to wait or to reschedule our appointments.
I found myself in a dilemma.
I had to either wait in the waiting room without much to do and with no guarantee of getting my turn that day, or I had to reschedule my appointment for a date at least two weeks away, with no guarantee that the computers wouldn’t happen to have the same problems then as well (and in the meantime driving with an expired license).
I chose to stay and wait, holding on to hope that someone, somewhere was working hard on my behalf to solve the computer problems that were completely out of my control. I found myself contemplating what a fitting metaphor this was for what I had been facing for a while. For the past few years I have been seeking to understand a part of the human experience called liminality.
Liminality is a state of being caught in between two places, that which we’ve left behind and that which is yet to be.
The term comes from a similar word for threshold. It is a passageway of sorts, but very often we experience it without clear entry or exit points, therefore it is accompanied by uncertainty, insecurity, and disequilibration.
We may be facing the deployment of a spouse, or it may look like a time period between jobs. We may be waiting to hear a diagnosis or seeking to understand the purpose in the death of someone we love.
The experience of waiting is typically one that we run from, choosing as often as we can to reschedule that appointment! We attempt to control the situation, sometimes trying almost anything to change our circumstances and move more quickly through the next doorway.
But what I have discovered, both in seeking to understand my own experience of liminality and learning how others have walked through it, is that liminality can be a beautiful time for receiving depth, truth, renewal, maturity, and faith. Instead of running from it, if we were to fully embrace the gifts offered in these in-between times, then uncertainty becomes an adventure and unsettledness becomes revelation.
So as I sat in the waiting area at the DMV, instead of obsessing about all of the things I wished I were doing instead of sitting there, I sought to engage fully in the moment. I observed the people around me. I prayed for each of them. I listened to the voice of God speak to my spirit about some unhealthy attitudes. I wrote some thoughts down on a piece of scratch paper to put in my journal and discovered that having to sit there was truly filling my soul.
And when the announcement finally came that the computers were fixed and my number lit up on the reader board, I actually experienced a little disappointment that my liminal time was being so rudely interrupted.
What might God want to teach you through a time of waiting?
Lori is a wife, mom, mentor, wilderness enthusiast, amateur theologian and a dreamer. She currently works as an adjunct professor for Warner University. She has a passion for seeing people discover an ever-deepening love relationship with God and is committed to helping them develop their own God-given passions in life. Lori enjoys the outdoors, playing sports, studying cultural trends, teaching, and having adventures with her family (husband, Chip, and two kids, Caleb-10 and Leah-11). Her big dream is to one day develop an outdoor adventure company.