A Message from Ellen
May 13, 2020
May 13, 2020
In the last newsletter, I shared a word that helps me describe where we find ourselves. We are currently in a liminal space. That means that we are not where we were, and also not yet where we will be. We know that life will not be the same going forward, but we don’t yet know exactly what the future looks like. Liminal space can be good or bad but it is always unsettling. In the case of the pandemic, the liminal space we are in is very stressful and, for many, filled with grief and anxiety. But, in Scripture and in my experience, ALL liminal space is a place where God is able to reach us and work on us in ways that we will not allow when all is good and settled and routine.
And that brings me back to my prediction (from the last newsletter) and my plea for Forest Lake Presbyterian Church in this liminal time. Sometimes, when we are knocked off of kilter, human beings respond with uncommon kindness, generosity and grace. But at other times, when the uncertainty stretches out before us without a defined end, we begin to be overcome with frustration, anger, impatience, fear or anxiety. I have begun to see this very predictable result of liminality all around me in the last few days. As I talk to people they are all over the place emotionally. Some of us respond to extended liminality with tears, and that is ok. Most of us, I imagine, have taken turns having difficulty getting out of bed. That is normal. But the other day, I saw a conversation on a social media application called Next Door. This app was designed to allow neighbors to share information and help each other. And most of the time it does. But this post began with a neighbor doing some venting about people not wearing masks. And in the space of a few hours, it had grown into a full-blown, adult fight complete with name calling, political taunts and cursing.
What this liminal time offers us is the chance to live out of and grow into our faith in God, and that requires self-discipline of us. If you feel words of anger coming up into your throat or into your fingertips, I hope that you will remember what the letter of James says (CEB version).
We all make mistakes often, but those who don’t make mistakes with their words have reached full maturity. Like a bridled horse, they can control themselves entirely. . . . Consider ships: they are so large that strong winds are needed to drive them. But pilots direct their ships wherever they want with a little rudder. In the same way, even though the tongue is a small part of the body, it boasts wildly. . . With it we both bless the Lord and Father and curse human beings made in God’s likeness. Blessing and cursing come from the same mouth. My brothers and sisters, it just shouldn’t be this way! (James 3:4-5, 9-10)
All of us are guilty from time to time. What this time offers us all is an opportunity to learn to tame our tongues (or fingertips in the case of social media). Precisely because we are frustrated, anxious, angry or afraid, we are to turn to God and ask for strength and self-control. Please, when you see a conversation going bad, don’t participate. And when you can, even if it is a reach for you, be a force for the fruits of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity and self-control. God can use even this uncomfortable liminal time for our good, and will do so if we ask. May it be so in our hearts and lives (and mouths).
Ellen Fowler Skidmore