A Message from Ellen
April 29, 2020
There is a great word to describe where we find ourselves right now – liminal space. To be in a liminal space means that we are no longer where we were, and it is clear that we are not yet where we will be. To be in a liminal space is to have one door close and to find ourselves in a hallway with no other door open and no clear sense of which way to go. Liminal spaces are almost never comfortable. Sometimes we choose a liminal space, as when we graduate from school without a firm plan, or end a relationship of long standing. But sometimes, like with COVID-19, we get pushed into liminal space through no plan, desire or decision of our own. But whether we jump or whether we are pushed into a liminal time, we realize that there is much about our lives and the world that we can control, there is much that we cannot and do not control.
Liminal times and spaces are not negotiable, happen to everyone, and we just happened to get to live in a universally recognized and widely experienced liminal time. But, we do have power over how we will react WHEN we find ourselves in a liminal time. And how we choose to respond makes a great deal of difference in our hearts, minds and souls. I’d like to lift up two that grow out of a knowledge of and love for God and a faith that wants to love God more.
First, when we find ourselves in a liminal space, we should not think that God is absent. Rather, all throughout Scripture, men and women of faith found that they could only know God in that liminal time. Elijah only heard God speak, only received food from God, when he found himself alone in the desert hiding from Queen Jezebel’s hit squad (1 Kings 19). So, the first bit of spiritual wisdom is stop thrashing, playing the victim, or trying to walk around in the dark as if we knew where we were going. Just stop. Just like we do when we find ourselves in literal unexpected darkness, we should stop and allow our eyes (in this case our spiritual sight) to adjust. Only then will we see, feel and recognize God’s presence in the liminal darkness.
Second, we should be honest with ourselves about how angry and impatient we get when we realize that we are not in control. When I take responsibility for the fact that I don’t like “not yet knowing”, then I can decide if anger, resentment and self-pity is my best spiritual approach to God or if I’d like to respond another way. I’m going to make a prediction here. I predict that in a month or more, we will begin to see more hatred, intolerance, anger and blame lived out both personally and publically. Let that not be us! There are some things that we cannot learn until our ego learns that God is at the center of reality, not our needs, wants or feelings. When the national conversation and collective mood turns to anger, spiritually mature lovers of God will not lead that parade.
In this liminal time, I encourage us all to make time to read Scripture and pray (and by pray I mean talk and listen to God) every day in this hallway time. And instead of spending ourselves on self-pity or anger, look for ways to help others. If you haven’t already, call the people that normally sit around you in the sanctuary to check on them. Whom have you not seen or talked to that you normally see at Forest Lake Presbyterian? Call, write or email them, just to let them know you are thinking about them. Do something nice for someone you don’t know or a neighbor. That helps us take our focus off of ourselves and opens us up to see what God is doing elsewhere. We are all in a liminal time, but we are not in this “hallway” alone. God is well acquainted with hallways, and has been waiting here to meet us for quite some time. Take heart. God’s night vision is excellent.
Hope you will join us for livestreamed worship at 10am on Sunday!
Ellen Fowler Skidmore