Times of transition are always a bit disorienting for most of us. We don’t quite know what to expect. They can leave us unsettled and anxious, but also excited. When we are in that liminal phase—“betwixt and between”—we often experience mixed feelings. We have left one kind of identity, but we have not quite yet assumed another. Liminal times and places are often considered risky, because who we are somehow “hangs in the balance.”
I’m going through that sort of change myself. After having studied and worked at the same university for forty years, I am preparing myself to take up new responsibilities as head of our diocesan theological college. It’s exciting and thrilling, but also rather daunting. The expected questions pop up: Will I be up to the challenge? Will I have what it takes to do the job with energy and devotion? Will others find in me the kind of inspiring leadership they may want and need? These are all very normal questions, and, in a way, all very necessary ones. They can help us make sense of an uncertain and ambiguous situation.
Interestingly enough, I’m also finding this liminality to be a spiritually rich time. I find that I am asking myself deeper and bigger questions, that I am listening more attentively to God, and that I am engaging more deliberately with my sense of calling to God’s mission. Perhaps being in this in-between stage breaks down our natural barriers and inhibitions. Perhaps it opens up in us unsuspected sources of vulnerability, causing us to respond more generously to how God is guiding us. Perhaps times of transition are really necessary for us to learn to listen and to respond better and more authentically.
I am reminded of all those biblical figures who found themselves in such transitional situations—Moses, the Prophets, Mary, Jesus, the Ethiopian eunuch—and I am reassured by how God spoke to them in those moments of uncertainty and ambivalence. Liminality need not be a frightening or a disheartening experience. It can, in fact, be “God’s time,” if we pay attention.