On the Threshold

So, my family and I are going through some really interesting transitions at the moment, and people ask how we are doing.  That’s a question I have a hard time answering quickly.

Admittedly, there are some negative aspects to being unemployed during the worst economic downturn since the 30’s.  I’ve applied for any job that looked remotely promising (and you know, I think I might have really enjoyed being a police dispatcher!) but there doesn’t seem any demand for ex-preachers in non-preaching positions.  And it’s not just me–my wife, a teacher, has been told that her position won’t exist next year, and that there likely won’t be any open positions in the entire county.

All of this, I’ve decided, is terrific.  If Sandy had any hope whatsoever of having a job here, we might have been tempted to stay in the area.  If my ministry experiences had been somewhat less frustrating, I might have been tempted to stick with it.  But now we find ourselves in a true liminal state.  Here’s what Wikipedia, the world’s foremost authority on everything at all, says about liminality:

Liminality (from the Latin word līmen, meaning “a threshold”) is a psychological, neurological, or metaphysical subjective, conscious state of being on the “threshold” of or between two different existential planes, as defined in neurological psychology (a “liminal state”) and in the anthropological theories of ritual by such writers as Arnold van Gennep, Victor Turner, and others. In the anthropological theories, a ritual, especially a rite of passage, involves some change to the participants, especially their social status.  The liminal state is characterized by ambiguity, openness, and indeterminacy. One’s sense of identity dissolves to some extent, bringing about disorientation. Liminality is a period of transition where normal limits to thought, self-understanding, and behavior are relaxed – a situation which can lead to new perspectives.

We can’t go back.  There’s no “there” there anymore.  We have to push ahead into the unknown.  I don’t have the faintest idea where we’ll be living in three months.  I don’t know what jobs we’ll have, if any.  My normal limits are as relaxed as possible.  We could go anywhere and do anything.  I can’t think of a time in my life so full of possibilities.  We are about to learn a lot.  We are going to look back on 2010 as the year that everything changed.  It could be the year that I moved into a line of work I never thought that I would do.  It could be the year that we become Lutherans.  It could be the year where, out of sheer desperation, we move in with family members for months at a time and do whatever odd jobs we can pick up.  It could be the year that I follow in my little brother’s footsteps and become a cop.  It could be the year that we move the kids to China where and teach conversational English to college students.  Anything is possible.  All options are on the table.

Now, how many people get to say at age 38, with two kids in tow, that anything at all could happen this year?  Would we have ever willingly given up comfort and security if there were any other option?  Probably not.  But now we are completely free–free to go anywhere and accept any opportunity. Free to learn about poverty firsthand, maybe.  Free to accept help from old friends.  Free to rest in silent prayer.  From to be re-created into a new kind of people.

I used to have a practice, when I moved to a new city, of driving aimlessly until I was completely lost, and then driving again until I found my way back to my new home.  I did that when I moved to the small city of Abilene, Tx, and I did it when I moved to the metropolis of Houston.  Being lost and looking for landmarks makes you keenly aware of your surroundings, and often I discovered that I wound up knowing my new city better than people who had lived there for years and were never desperate enough to start paying close attention to what surrounded them.

I’m paying close attention to everything right now.  I’m currently lost in Life, and looking for signs that might lead to a place to stay for a while.  I feel sharper, fresher, younger than I have in a long time.  No more living life by default.  This is the year of unbound possibilities, in an uncharted land.

To me, there is no other sensible or faithful position to take.  What is one to do but move ahead in hope?

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