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Holy Saturday and the transformative power of liminal spaces

 

Between the darkness of Good Friday and the light of Easter Sunday, Holy Saturday hangs suspended. It’s a liminal space—neither here nor there. If we take the time to enter in we’ll feel it too: things are not as they were, nor are they as they will be. There’s a tension between what we’ve known and what’s ahead.

We are in-between.

Maybe you are in your own sort of in-between, liminal space.

Perhaps something has thrust you into crisis—a relational breakdown, the loss of a loved one, work dried up, finances in disarray, a faith tradition that isn’t meeting your deepest need, an identity you’ve outgrown. While the crisis itself is easily identifiable (diagnosis, miscarriage, divorce), what’s harder to put language around is the space crisis ushers us into: change, transition, liminality—the space between old and new.

In liminal spaces we begin to realize we aren’t who we were, but we’re not yet who we’re going to be. You might feel disoriented, confused, untethered, anxious, or apathetic. You might be afraid or expectant. Most of us want to claw our way out of liminality as soon as humanly possible—back to a place where we know the rules. (The pandemic has given us a collective longing to find and establish a “new normal” with structure and norms we can wrap our minds around.) We work hard toward resolution; we’re uncomfortable with ambiguity.

Adventure seems sexy, but the truth is most of us quite like to know where it’s leading. We like maps and plans, benchmarks and targets. But God uses our liminality—our in-betweenness—to deeply form us if we’re willing.

Joseph in prison. Israel in the desert. Jonah in the fish. David in the pasture. Mary with child. Jesus in the wilderness. These were not bridges, simply moving them from one place to another; these were transformative places and spaces and times—transformational encounters with God.

Liminality is a chrysalis, a womb where we can grow into the life ahead. And sometimes, like Holy Saturday, liminality takes the shape of a tomb—dark, despairing, disorienting, depressing—but still: a place where new life is formed and birthed.

Take heart friends. Transformation happens in liminal spaces. Will you stay in the tension as long as it takes?

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