Liminal Space

by Kelsey Knobloch

“We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.” – Romans 8:22-23

Do you remember the week just after Christmas? It seems like so long ago, but it’s been less than a month. After the festivities have ended, the feasts are completed, the presents opened and the family departed, we all just…sit around. Everyone is on vacation or, if they’re not, work stagnates. If you watch TV, every channel is running a marathon. The weather of the season is cold, gray, and overcast, so you can never really tell what time it is. You take a nap and wake up, but everything is the same.

It’s the very definition of a liminal space: a transitional period. The “middle part.” The space in-between. Every year it strikes me as strange, but every year I find myself restless. There must be something I’m supposed to be doing, right? Don’t I have an email to answer, some laundry to fold, an errand to run? But by the time New Years Eve rolls around things are (at least mostly) back to normal.

That’s not the only liminal space, though. We’re stuck in a persistent liminal space we call life. I recall a very famous poem that made the rounds a few years ago, though it was originally written back in 1996 by Linda Ellis. Called simply The Dash, it describes the ‘dash’ between birth and death dates on a tombstone.

“I read of a man who stood to speak at the funeral of a friend. He referred to the dates on the tombstone from the beginning… to the end.
He noted that first came the date of birth and spoke of the following date with tears, but he said what mattered most of all was the dash between those years.
For that dash represents all the time they spent alive on earth and now only those who loved them know what that little line is worth.
For it matters not, how much we own, the cars… the house… the cash. What matters is how we live and love and how we spend our dash.”

The poem goes on from there, but it brings about a good question: how are you spending your ‘dash?’ I think of my day-to-day, the things that occupy my time and, though I’m young by the standards of many, know that at some point my dash will come to an end. I think of my Grandpa who, after his open-heart surgery over 10 years ago, wants nothing more than to “go home.” He’s tired, he’s weak, and his memory is going. His dash isn’t over, but he wants it to be. He’s done with this liminal space of life; tired of it. He may be ready to go home to heaven, but God isn’t done with him here.

There’s more liminal space too. The space between weeks, between Sundays. In the transitional period between attending service on Sunday morning and the Saturday evening that comes a full 6 days later, what are you doing? How are you living out your dash? Is it in the way God has intended for you, or have you ‘checked out?’ If you’re still here, God isn’t done with you. As long as you draw breath, you’ve got work to do in God’s kingdom.

I know it’s hard. I can’t begin to imagine every person’s personal struggles as the week(s) go on and you try your best to care for those that depend on you, show up for work, maintain a house, and keep yourself healthy. There are probably even more challenges, some invisible, some known only to you, that you alone struggle with. But even when it’s hard, we rely on God to give us the strength to pull through.

Just as God demands action on our part, calls us to love our neighbors in real, tangible ways, He also gives us the strength to push on, power through, and seize our dash.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart.” – Hebrews 12:1-3

Maybe you’re stuck in a liminal space of your spiritual life. Maybe you’re in-between seasons of activity. Now is the time to press on, to stretch towards the goal and live out your faith. God is doing so very much at Good Sam. He has propelled us through a pandemic, through a search for new pastors, and a transition period. How are you going to be a part of what’s happening now?

Have you joined a weekly bible study? Volunteered to sing or read on Sunday? Asked about helping with streaming the service? Shared a Facebook post? Invited a friend to join us? Helped out at the Food Pantry? Grabbed an umbrella? Made an extra donation? Wrote a thank-you note to a church worker? Something else?

We’re through the liminal space at Good Sam, and moved on to doing God’s missions. Are you ready to help?