Tag Archives: liminal space

The book of Job & liminal space

What does the book of Job have to teach us about liminal spaces? – A lot!

My last post was an honest, raw confession of where I am at personally.

Several people have contacted me about feeling like they are in a liminal space of their own. I think there are many reasons for being in a space like this (some of it is the time of life, some of it is part of the spiritual journey, but I also think much of it is the shift in consciousness), but there are several things that stand out to me which I would like to explore in the future (stay tuned!), but for now I wanted to share a few thoughts about the book of Job.

BookJob

Last year (about this time actually) I took a seminary class that was focused entirely on Job. Job is a complex book that has become my favorite book in the Hebrew Bible.

That being said one can read Job and leave frustrated and confused – Every time I read it I feel this way, yet for some reason I still find comfort in it (maybe because I find comfort in mystery and uncertainty and not in shallow, pat answers?)

One can read Job and conclude the following:

God caused Job’s pain – if not directly than indirectly by allowing “the accuser” (not the same person as the biblical character Satan which was developed over time and only really become a demonic fallen angel during the inter-testament periods) to inflict suffering. The picture of a heavenly wager is an ancient form of literary genre and should not be read literally for by doing so it paints a pretty horrible picture of God!

It can seem as if God bullies Job into surrendering –  one can walk away with the idea that we shouldn’t question. (Actually I think the opposite is true!)

Because Job is blessed ten-fold in the end all the suffering was worth it.  -Really?  ok if I’m honest that just sucks!

In class we discussed the different ways Job can be interpreted and what kind of story it actually is – is it an actual historical story? Is it a story taken from other cultures who had their own Job story? Is it a sort of fable or play?

However one interprets the book of Job, I was left with more questions than answers which I think is the point of the story. One thing that did stand out was the following;

Job was wrestling through a liminal space, i.e. how does he move forward when he was raised and taught to believe one thing, but has experienced something different?

Ever been there?

I have, many times and often it is a difficult and unclear journey because you don’t have the answers. All you can do is confess, “this old way of thinking, being, or seeing doesn’t work for me anymore” – often these experiences come in the form of pain, heartache, loss, grief, change, or transition.

Job was raised to think that everyone who followed God would be blessed, and those who were cursed clearly did not (retribution principle). This made the world black and white and easy to understand. You could look at someone and if they were poor or suffering it was because they had done something wrong, i.e. it was there own fault.

Now the story makes it very clear that Job was a good man who had done nothing wrong and yet was experiencing some tremendous suffering. Job defends himself while his three friends continue to argue that he must have done something wrong because he was going through such suffering.

Ever feel like people just don’t seem to understand why you can’t believe, see, or think the way they do?

jobc10

Sometimes I feel helpless because I just don’t have the words to articulate why exactly I do not see things the same way.

His friends were stuck in the old way of thinking, but Job’s pain, suffering,  and grief had given him an experience where this old way of thinking just didn’t work – the answers he was taught and the answers those around him were giving just weren’t good enough anymore.

Ever feel like people give you answers to questions for a world that no longer exists? Answers that seem to see things as clearly black and white, only your experience has opened your eyes to see the world in so many different colors?

I think Job can relate to this – I find comfort in this.

As I am writing this I realize that I find comfort in mystery, uncertainty, and in the grey – this seems to be where I find God. I think this is because it is not shallow. I was taught to have all the answers, and then to present them (argue) to others. This causes one to seem superior and often arrogant because they always have all the answers and others need to see the world the way they do.

Like Job, the old way of seeing the world as black and white no longer works for me, and yet I struggle at times to find the words to articulate and explain why.

Next post I plant to share many personal examples and experiences that have lead me through liminal spaces.

 

 

My personal struggle – my liminal space

 

Asphalt road in an autumn fog

Yep…the above picture pretty much sum’s up my life right now.

I am living through a major struggle in my life. At the moment life is foggy and it is difficult to see the future

I am living in a liminal space

I was raised in a religious tradition that is still very much a part of me, but that I do not fit into neatly.

Because of my life experience I see the world differently – I think that’s good because it shows growth (some would call it walking down the slippery slope). I am thankful for this journey, but for the past several years of my life it has led me in and out of liminal spaces. Sometimes they have been short times (a few weeks), but oftentimes they have taken months…right now I feel right smack dab in the middle of a long one!

One website says the following:

The word “liminal” comes from the Latin word limens, meaning literally, “threshold.”

A liminal space, the place of transition, waiting, and not knowing…

Seems to be the story of my life.

From my understanding a liminal space is the space where the old doesn’t work and the new is not yet known – it’s sort of an in between space (like dawn – not completely dark, but not light enough to see well). It is a time of uncertainty, unknowing, frustration – where one cannot see clearly what lies ahead and to be honest…

…this is difficult!

As I mentioned, for one reason or another, I seem to be drawn to walk in liminal spaces.  While I’m not sure why, I can say that I cannot stay where I used to be. Something is calling me forward into the unknown and I know deep within I must answer this call.

While it can sound romantic, let me tell you it is not at all.

While I cannot stay where I used to be, when I look around I often find I don’t fit into the openings I see.

I grew up evangelical, but have been involved in mainline churches for the past several years. While I am theologically progressive or mainline, I am culturally evangelical and this seems to be something I cannot shake.

I sense a call to be a spiritual leader, a sense a stirring and passion to be a pastor in the local church, and yet simultaneously I find church very constricting – mostly due to rigid structures and often dogmatic beliefs, but also the subcultures and foreign language patterns they often use.

I chafe against anything that seems dogmatic because it sucks the life and joy out of me – ironic that I want to work in religious institutions that are often the most dogmatic of all places.

86

As my bio also speaks about I have been and continue to be shaped by different traditions, including those outside of Christianity. I love this, but it does at times result in loneliness as I search for a home. Sometimes I am grateful for this journey and sometimes I resent it – sometimes I wish life was so much more simpler like it used to be.

I am very much still a Christian, and yet when most people define or think of a Christian I cannot help but ask why I do not seem to fit this. I am evangelical, progressive, mainline, liturgical, contemplative and yet I am not defined singularly by any one of these labels. In fact, I actually get annoyed when these labels are used because I feel like an obscure hexagon trying to be shoved into a square whole….it almost works…almost.

This has caused me to seek a spiritual director…I will let you know how that goes soon.

But for now I feel this is a process, a frustrating part of the journey I am taking. I know I will likely look back at this time in my life and be thankful for what it produced in me, but for now all I desperately want it to get past it, to have clarity, to have a clear vision and to feel like I have some certainty.

Do you ever feel like this?