The Transformational Path of Liminal Spaces
When it comes to transformation in our spiritual journey, it is important to point out a paradox when understanding maturity. First, while we do indeed go through maturing processes, we are not reaching for something outside of ourselves, attempting to add something that is not already there. More specifically, we already have the fullness of the Godhead dwelling within us. We already have everything "Pertaining to life and godliness." Your identity in the kingdom is as real and true as it will ever be. However, I conceptualize our transformational processes as coming into revelation or awakening to the realities we already possess. Therefore, by coming into the intimate knowledge (Greek: Gnosis) of our true nature, identity, and what we carry as sons and daughters of God, we demonstrate or manifest in our lives and into the world. I preface this blog with this understanding in hopes you understand where I am coming from when I say the manifesting of what is true of us is realized, often, through transformational paths and processes. Therefore, we are not adding something missing but uncovering our true selves.
The transformational idea I am conveying in this blog is the concept of liminal spaces. Liminal spaces are prevalent emotional, psychological, and spiritual experiences of being in a transition leaving the old and coming into the new. These transitional moments lead us into a greater demonstration of our sonship in the kingdom. The etymology of the word liminal comes from the Latin word “limen” meaning threshold, literally a threshold between two spaces. The idea is a person is standing at the threshold of transition and crossing over into a new place.
Moreover, A liminal space is the dwelling in-between two sides where a person is in a transition from one stage to the next. We find ourselves in a liminal space when life asks us to release the familiar and transition into the unfamiliar new or next stage. It is often a confusing, disorienting, and emotionally distressing time because it is not always clear as to what one is moving toward. For example, feeling it is time to step out into a new venture like a career, going to school, moving cities, perhaps of divorce, or have lost someone significant to you, and you are attempting to find your footing into the next stage.
The liminal space is holding the tension of being in the in-between. Despite the contradictory emotions, it is a time of possibilities, renewal, and awakening. The question for all of us is, will we endure that process until we make the transition? More importantly, will we be able to take advantage of the purpose of the uncomfortable and uncertain time while going through the necessary transformation?
Liminal Spaces In Scripture
A great scriptural example of the liminal space is when Israel was delivered from Egypt's bondage, having traveled to the land that God had promised them. As the story goes, they sent in 12 spies to survey the land, and it's inhabitants. When they returned from their mission, 10 of the 12 spies gave a very bleak report stating that they could not take the land because "we are like grasshoppers in their sight." Israel was in a liminal space where they had left slavery but were not rulers or possessing the promise. They had heard what God had promised them, but they could not get past how they viewed themselves, and ultimately they couldn’t believe what God could do through them and for them. Therefore, when it came time to complete the transition into the fulfilled promise, they were halted by their old identity, inevitably turning away from moving through the liminal space to the new. They had to dwell in the liminal space of the wilderness for forty years to finally bring them to the sufficient level of transformation so they could apprehend what was theirs all along.
The writer of Hebrews in the New Testament gave commentary to the failure of that moment. Hebrews stated that that generation did not enter into the rest of receiving the inheritance because they rebelled due to a hardened heart, "Today if you hear my voice and harden not your hearts as in the day of rebellion” (Hebrews 3:7,15 NKJV). The writer of Hebrews maintains that the experience of the hard heart was a product of listening to the competing voice of their old identity as slaves, opposing God's voice, which represents their new identity as children of inheritance. Ultimately, they listened to the wrong voice.
Interestingly, after the forty years of dwelling in the wilderness and Moses's death, they came full circle to the banks of the Jordan with a new generation led by Joshua. When it came time to prepare Israel to take possession of the promise, Joshua would not allow for a dissenting voice. He commanded that if anyone did not agree with possessing the promise or completing the transition through the liminal space, they would be put to death. In keeping with the harsh Old Testament ancient practices, Joshua was not about to make the previous generation's mistake by allowing dissenting opinions.
Everyone has his or her particular transformational paths to process through. In other words, you have your own unique liminal spaces that you must recognize and navigate through to the next place of apprehending what is available to you. If appropriately understood, every experience life brings to you is an opportunity for growth and transformation. The liminal space is an invitation to make an exchange from the old to the new. But to be clear, you will have to make the exchange when it's offered.
Tips For Moving Through the Liminal Spaces
1. Recognize and reframe.
One of the things that helps a person endure adversity and empowers one to move through the liminal spaces with grace is understanding what is happening at the moment. In other words, when you notice the uncomfortable feelings of confusion, disappointment, or grief, realize what is happening. Rather than fall to the temptation to feel sorry for yourself or blameshift onto something or someone else, you would be better served to understand that the pain may lead you to the transformational path. Therefore, resist the temptation to avoid what is in front of you, which only serves to delay the shift. By reframing the experience you are going through into the proper frame, you can gain a higher perspective that allows for the exchange.
A great scriptural example of the reframe was when Joseph was facing his brothers after all the hardships they had put him through, Joseph saw that it was God who was the author of his adversity to prepare him for greatness. Therefore, rather than taking his brother's transgressions personally, Joseph was able to understand that it was necessary for him to go through the transformational experiences to shape him into the ruler he had dreamt of becoming. Therefore, giving him the perspective and heart to release his brothers of their transgressions.
To transition effectively through the liminal spaces is to gain the proper perspective that allows us to endure until the process is complete.
2. Do not become reactive.
One of the main signs of personal maturity is how one manages their emotions. I think that how one relates to their emotions is an aspect of spiritual maturity. We all at various points in our life have a difficult time with our emotions; however, the mark of maturity is not allowing your emotions to control you. Emotions are not something to be ignored, discredited, invalidated, but they are a part of our humanity that we cannot allow to go unchecked. Mature people respond rather than react. Reactions suggest that one is not giving much thought to their actions while being overtaken by emotions. In contrast, responses are when people recognize what they are feeling, but can have enough mindfulness to choose action based upon thoughtfulness. Usually, when we are going through difficult times, the challenge is not becoming erratic or reactive through emotional pressure.
3. Become present to the discomfort.
Being present to what you are experiencing with acceptance and nonjudgment is a skill you have to learn. Most of us will do whatever it takes to distract ourselves from emotional discomfort. However, when we learn to bring our presence and awareness into the moment, observing our emotions without resistance, you will notice that the discomfort will begin to weaken. When we validate the emotional discomfort, which means to accept it as it is, we have started to allow the moment to transform us. The response that causes more pain and suffering is the inner resistance to "what is," and we judge it as being "horrible," "terrible," "I can't stand this," or "I should not feel this." The judgments of the experience are triggering more negativity and emotional pain. Study mindfulness practices they work.
4. Pain is an opportunity to dive deeper into Spirit.
In relation to the previous point, the pain has a transformational quality when we allow it to have its work in us. No one enjoys pain, and certainly, we are not inviting it into our lives, but the fact is, everyone will endure pain on this side of existence. It’s just a reality. However, moving through it takes us to another reality if we let it, “For I consider that the suffering of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God” (Rom. 8:18,19 NKJV). Further, “I want to know Him in the power of His resurrection and in the fellowship of His suffering” –Apostle Paul. Obviously, there are other transformational paths, but suffering is often a feature if you are moving through a liminal space.
5. Do not let the fear of the unknown stop your progress.
Fear of the unknown is a common fear within society. We like to be able to predict outcomes and strategize our next move. However, what makes the liminal spaces so disconcerting is we don't always see the next step, or the outcome of our next step, or can guarantee success. That is why when we are transitioning through a liminal space, it requires greater trust in Father. If Abraham would have had to know step 2 before he was willing to take step 1, he would have never fulfilled his purpose on the earth. Think about it; God only told him to go, nothing else.
Our humanity loves certainty. Certainty reduces our anxiety about life, which is why we cling to the familiar, the old, and struggle with embracing the unfamiliar new. Certainty is what gives us the feeling of control. Fearful people control.
My hope is that this blog is an encouragement to you to help you understand what you may be going through. The struggle isn’t a sign that you have made a mistake or have missed God along the way. Most of the time it is the necessary adversity to help prepare you for your next stage of maturity. I pray grace for you, the spiritual “easy button” to help us transform as we transition.