Liminal Space


Changes. Transitions.  Shifts.  Modifications.  Reorientations.  These are not merely parts of life, but life itself.  I share some thoughts from Richard Rohr, a Franciscan priest who leads the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, New Mexico (

Limina is the Latin word for threshold, the space betwixt and between.  Liminal space, therefore, is a unique spiritual position where human beings hate to be but where the biblical God is always leading them.

It is when you have left the “tried and true” but have not yet been able to replace it with anything else.  It is when you are finally out-of-the-way.  It is when you are in between your old comfort zone and any possible new answer.  It is not fun.

Think of Israel in the desert, Joseph in the pit, Jonah in the belly, the [women] tending the tomb.  Few of us know how to stay on the threshold. . .Inside of sacred (liminal) space you can – if you can dare imagine it – hear God.  Inside of sacred space you can see things in utterly new ways.  Ways that seem foreign and ever dangerous to those trapped inside the closed system.

Nothing good or creative emerges from business as usual.  This is why much of the work of God is to get people into liminal space, and to keep them there long enough so they can learn something essential.  It is the ultimate teachable space, maybe the only one.  Most spiritual giants try to live lives of “chronic liminality” in some sense.  They know it is the only position that insures ongoing wisdom, broader perspective and ever-deeper compassion.  The Jewish prophets, St. Francis, Gandhi, and John the Baptist come to mind.

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One Comment

  1. Lou Bury May 22, 2012 at 11:27 am #

    Ah, the comfort zone. How our retreat to it is wired within us. A friend of mine has a saying: “No one ever got hurt sitting in his Lazy Boy.” It is his response to those who exercise. While it may be true that no injuries take place while perched in one’s recliner with a bag of chips, it is also true that you are slowly but surely dying from within. In contrast, I recall Henry V’s St. Crispin’s Day speech at the Battle of Agincourt (“We band of brothers…”) or, as long as I’m quoting from my limited knowledge of Shakespeare, this from Julius Caesar: “Cowards die many times before their deaths, the valiant never taste of death but once.” In more modern times, I recall Teddy Roosevelt’s speech that he would rather be the man who “at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” And that’s how it is with our Lord. He calls us not to our spiritual recliner, where we slowly but surely face spiritual erosion, but to our spiritual Agincourt where, unlike Henry V, we fight not for our glory, but for His. Peace, Lou.