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The Benefits of Betweenness

There is an inherent longing in us for security and control. We have dreams and desires to which our behavior inevitably pursues. All of this is as ephemeral as the morning dew. Life is uncertain and little is in our control. This vision of life is designed to disappoint for it is grounded in a cosmic lie.

It is far better to view one's life as liminal space, becoming, and always in transition. To view life in this manner our focus is not on arriving at some future destination but being in the moment in the present. It invites us to accept the ambiguity and uncertainty of life, which puts us in a state of dependent watchfulness. We live fully amid the discordant rift, risking the safety of the consonant beginning, but not fully realizing the comfort of the resolution. It is a life filled with questions, longing, hope, watchfulness, dependence, and adventure.

Rather than resist the liminality of life, it is there to be embraced. The Celtic belief in "thin places" not only related to space, an oak tree or a well, but also to time. Life as we know it is by its very character rooted in liminality, in betweenness—birth and death. To embrace betweenness means that life is launched with divine purpose and ends in divine fulfillment. This frames our understanding of betweenness—our lives are not framed by cosmic nothingness, but cosmic love and meaning. This gives our liminality its character and content.

Pema Chodron writes, "Life is a good teacher and a good friend. Things are always in transition, if we could only realize it. Nothing ever sums itself up in the way that we like to dream about. The off-center, in-between state is an ideal situation, a situation in which we don't get caught and we can open our hearts and minds beyond limit." If life is a sacred pilgrimage, then we don't need to get stuck in the leaving or arriving. Life is actually the journey. This means that mindfulness in the day allows for us to learn the lessons of the day. The lessons are given in incremental daily steps that reflect the grace that we need just for that day. We want to see the whole journey, to have our fate revealed ahead of time, but such is only a rebellious disregard for the benefits of liminality, which is a reality that demands dependence and strengthens faith.

As we enter the winter months of this year, we are reminded that somethings must die if there is to be new life. We cannot yet see the budding dogwood tree or the courageous crocus poking up through the snow. Now is the time to make the sacrifices of winter that allow for the new growth in the spring. There are lessons about life that can only be learned as one lives in the midst of the four seasons. Among the lessons of winter is the need for the acceptance of life's liminality. "I don't know what today will bring. But I will be watchful for its lessons, which are customized to my needs on my journey. This will be enough."


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