The Space of Airplanes — Living in Liminality
I once heard a seminary professor tell a story about a conversation he had with his son. They had lived as missionaries in Poland for a number of years and had recently moved back in America when he asked his son one day which culture felt most like home to him. The answer his son gave in response was, “I feel most at home in an airplane.”
There was no more explanation given that day as to why his son responded that way, but the comment stuck with me. I was reflecting on this memory last week when I made a comment to my husband about how I often feel most at home when I’m living out of a suitcase. That sense of displacement, where you know life isn’t meant to be eternally lived in a certain place, that’s where I feel most “at home”. The space of airplanes. At the deepest levels of me that feels like where I belong.
The word we often use in Destino to describe this is liminality — the place of “in between”. We talk a lot about this in the context of culture and how bicultural people live and find their identity to be in this place of living in between two cultural worlds. Neither our parent culture or majority culture fully encompasses all of who we are, but we can identify with some of both. The tendency is to always choose one culture over the other in an attempt to get rid of the ambiguity or complexity, but what we encourage our students to do (and what I encourage myself to do) is to embrace the place in between because it is there that I find wholeness in who God created me to be.
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.
– Richard Rohr
As a bicultural person I live in a place of chronic liminality. It is in this place that God meets me and reveals more of himself to me. I’ve really grown to love this space. To cherish this space. While painful, it also feels sacred to me now because, like Rohr said, I’ve been here long enough to learn something essential and fundamental to the core of me. I now know in deep and profound ways that I am his and that in him is where I belong.
There is so much beauty in this place for bicultural people like me because it also gives me an accute awareness of a very real truth that all believers live in. The truth that our life right now here on earth truly IS a life of liminality. The “now and not yet” life of the Christian is knowing that the kingdom has come but that the fullness of it is still yet to come. We are living in between the ascension and the second coming of the Savior and we have a purpose to live out in this in between space.
Recently I began reading Faith of Leap by Alan Hirsch and Michael Frost. In the first couple chapters the authors use the word liminality to describe the place where they believe the church as a whole needs to move towards in order to live out the “now and not yet” life. They talk about how the church is so comfortable and eager to avoid risk and ambiguity that it has become complacent in mission and kingdom work. The way out of this static life as a community of faith from their perspective is to step into the tension filled space of liminality.
As I read those chapters I couldn’t help but think about my own story and how living in the liminal spaces is really where I have found home to be for me. It is in that space where God wants me to be for the sake of living life whole and full. I know that space so well.
So maybe God wants to use bicultural people like me to invite the church into this space too. To teach the church how to grow in learning to love the in between life where things are less certain and less settled. It is a place of uncomfortability but it is also where I find God. Could it be that he is raising up bicultural people for such a time as this when the Church is in a season of needing to step out of what is comfortable to re-engage the story God has been writing since the creation of the world?
That’s my prayer for myself and for Destino. I pray that the Lord would take the way he has created us as bicultural people and use it to bring more of the kingdom to earth. I pray that the church would step into liminality with those of us that have found our home here. I really do invite you all to come. It is a richer life than you now know. This space of airplanes.
Photo courtesy: Vox Efx