Were you a fan of spelling bees in elementary school? I was. We’d line up in two rows on opposite sides of the classroom. The teacher would call out a word to the first person in line. If you got it right, you went to the back of the line. If you missed, you went back to your desk and sat down. I didn’t always win, but I usually made it through the first few rounds!
My younger daughter follows in those footsteps, and enjoys competing in spelling bees at the state fine arts competition. Helping her study the extensive lists makes me realize how many words there are out there that I’ve never heard of. I have a hard enough time pronouncing them, and certainly couldn’t spell them correctly, especially under pressure!
While listening to Jamie Ivey’s podcast The Happy Hour last week, I learned another new word. I think I could have spelled it, but had no clue what it meant.
The word was “liminal”, and it was used in the phrase “liminal space.” Jamie’s guest explained what it meant, but I wanted to dig into it a little more. Here’s what I found at inaliminalspace.org
“A liminal space is the time between the ‘what was’ and the ‘next.’ It is a place of transition, waiting, and not knowing.”
Ah, that I can understand. Alan Seale also explains the term well.
“The liminal space is a waiting space. You could land here for any number of reasons. Perhaps a particular event or circumstance has interrupted the life you were living and now everything is up in the air. Or maybe something is unfolding around you that will have a significant impact on your next steps, yet you have no control over that circumstance and its timing. Or perhaps you are clear about your next steps, yet somehow you sense that now is not the time to take those steps. And you don’t know when the right time will come.”
So I’ve been in a liminal space before and didn’t know that’s what it was called! I realized that there are a few ways this relates to the Bible truth of waiting on the Lord.
A liminal space is a waiting space.
Oftentimes, in our minds, waiting means there’s not much going on. It’s just downtime, with no action taking place. Yet just as we talked about last week, even when we don’t see outward progress, God is at work. So even in a season of waiting, much can be accomplished in our lives.
As I looked up Bible verses about waiting, I noticed how many of them are in Psalms. After all, David knew about waiting. Samuel crowned him king while he was just a shepherd boy. Even after he grew older, he was forced to wait again while a jealous Saul chased him down and tried to kill him.
He could advise us with confidence, “Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and He shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.” (Psalm 27:14)
A liminal space is a transition.
Are you facing a transition in the near future? It could be a first child starting school, a last child starting school, an empty nest. Maybe it’s a move or a job change or just an adjustment to your daily schedule.
There can be a little bit of fear in transitions. Transitions typically mean change, and that can make us uncomfortable! Yet it’s often in the transition times that we grow. If everything always stayed the same, we’d be stagnant. We wouldn’t develop new skills, or expand in different areas of our life.
So when we’re in those transition times, let’s rely on God to help us through the changes. As the verse below says, let’s find our hope in His Word.
“I wait for the Lord, my soul doth wait, and in His word do I hope.” (Psalm 130:5)
A liminal space is the in-between.
Impatience can grow in the in-between We’re pretty much finished with one thing, but aren’t quite ready to move on to the next thing. We just want to hurry through the in-between.
This is a good time to remember Psalm 37:7. “Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him…”
God has so much to teach us in the waiting spaces, the transitions, and the in-between times. It may feel like nothing’s happening. Yet God’s timing is always perfect.
“He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also He hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11)
God is faithful to reveal the next step when He has prepared us for it. Until then, we wait, we listen, and we trust, expecting our good God to guide us each step of the way.
“My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him.” (Psalm 62:5)
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Oh, I hate waiting! I like this idea of liminal space; what a neat idea! It’s helpful to remember that God uses these times to cause us to grow and mature, even though it does feel kind of purpose-less.
I was talking to a lady at church on Sunday who’s been going through a lot of health-related waiting…waiting to get doctors appointments scheduled, waiting for test results, etc. We agreed that learning to wait – and to trust God during those waiting times – is one of the hardest lessons we have to learn!
Liminal space sounds more positive than what I always called it: “limbo”
Yes, limbo is a term I can understand 😉