The word liminal comes from the Latin word limen, meaning threshold – any point or place of entering or beginning. A liminal space is the time between the ‘what was’ and the ‘next.’ It is a place of transition, waiting, and not knowing.
Liminal space is where all transformation takes place, if we learn to wait and let it form us.
Author and theologian Richard Rohr describes this space as:
where we are betwixt and between the familiar and the completely unknown. There alone is our old world left behind, while we are not yet sure of the new existence. That’s a good space where genuine newness can begin. Get there often and stay as long as you can by whatever means possible…This is the sacred space where the old world is able to fall apart, and a bigger world is revealed. If we don’t encounter liminal space in our lives, we start idealizing normalcy. The threshold is God’s waiting room. Here we are taught openness and patience as we come to expect an appointment with the divine Doctor.
These thresholds of waiting and not knowing our ‘next’ are everywhere in life and they are inevitable. Each ushers in a new chapter of life and holds varying degrees of disruption.
Change never exists in a box, no matter how hard we might try to contain it. Change in one area of life always spills into others that disrupt the status quo. There is a ripple effect. Community, spirituality, vocation, relationships, physicality, friendships and emotions do not exist mutually exclusive from one another—they intersect and intertwine.
When we become aware of our own liminality, most of us, if we’re honest, don’t know who to become or how to navigate the transition. We often miss the real potential of ‘in-between’ places – we either stand paralyzed or we flee the “terrible cloud of unknown.”
If our liminal spaces are approached intentionally and within community, rather than staying paralyzed, running away or going at it alone, we can boldly approach it and confidently move forward into our futures.