by Don Remick
It was Mark Twain who observed that the only person who likes change is a baby with a wet diaper.
Well, that baby, and our God. Our God, who is constant, whose steadfast love endures forever, who is the same yesterday, today and forever; our God likes change. Not change for the sake of change; but change that leads us out of the delusions of the stability and security for which we so strive. Our most sacred stories speak of a God who moves us from Egypt’s slavery into the wilderness; talks with us in times of exile, drives God’s very self into a deserted place and walks through death to resurrection.
God may like change, we are not so fond of it. In a world that is increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous, we long for some place of refuge, safety, security and stability.
As the crow flies, a person could take a fast jet from Egypt to the promised land in about 40 minutes. 200 years ago people caravanned in covered wagons across this country over mountains, plains and rivers in as little as 4 months. The Israelites, in our scripture, crossed that same distance in 40 years. Because the destination was not the goal, at least it wasn’t for God. The road was made by walking and that road was the place of inner transformation; where they learned to deepen their bonds of relationship and trust in a God they were coming to know. They were seeking to understand who they were and what their purpose was as a people of God. They came to perceive the world through new perspectives. Security, stability, refuge and safety can get in the way of that. The road takes the time it takes.
One of the fundamental lessons of that road is liminal space. It is learning how to become comfortable with having more questions than answers. It is the place where we discover how to pay attention; to notice what is happening around us and within us and wonder where God is moving. It is learning how to sit in the uncomfortableness of uncertainty and to seek and to trust God. It is the place where we name our fears and griefs and hurt and surrender them to God. It is the space where we listen to other voices and perspectives that are outside of our experience and the world/culture in which we live (voices that belong to people who have long been familiar with the uncertainty that comes from living in the margins). It is the place where we tremble while listening to the voice of the Spirit invite us to “Be still and know that I am God.” It is where we release and shed, learn to leave behind, all that will not enable us to be faithful and healthy and effective in the new land where we are already living.
The word “liminal” has its origin in the Latin root, limen, which means “threshold.” It is the place between what you are leaving behind and what you’re are discovering. It’s a transition space. Liminal space is the crucial element of the journey into Holy Indifference to Outcome (letting go and letting God, ‘thy Will be done’) that will lead us through the uncharted territory of the world in which we live.
And God will always be there in that space…of change, of transformation, of new life.
Rev. Don Remick is the Transitional Interim Conference Minister for the MA Conference, UCC.
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