Are you sick and tired of being sick and tired? Are you worn out from feeling like we have left life as we have always known it but haven’t arrived into a new way of being quite yet? Are you just done with the disorienting feeling of not fully knowing where you are or how to act or what to expect? Then what I believe you are experiencing is Liminality Fatigue. What I mean by this phrase is liminal spaces are those spaces in life that are “betwixt and between”, to quote Richard Rohr. In architecture they are hallways or entrance ways that lead you from one part of the building to another. In sociology it’s when we transition from one phase of life but haven’t quite entered into the next phase. Theologically speaking liminality is the “in between times” when we are waiting hopefully for what is to come, like Jesus’ Second Coming. Things have started to change and aren’t like they were, but haven’t fully transformed into what it will be. Think caterpillar in a cocoon before becoming a butterfly. And of course fatigue means we are tired of it. We are tired of feeling stuck in this in between time.
Interesting side note: Yes, I made that term up – but I Googled it to be sure and apparently it is a thing used in nursing – overworked nurses use the term to mark that space between acute fatigue becoming chronic fatigue. Fitting.
As exhausted as we might be, the truth is we just haven’t arrived at any dependable new way of living yet. While our minds and our bodies might not understand this and instead react from a place of bone tired weariness, our spirits should get this. We, as Christians, know about the promises God makes for a future filled with hope and prosperity, not harm. (Jeremiah 29:11) As the Israelites are wandering through the wilderness, God continues to promise them eventually arriving in the Promised Land. And Jesus puts it ever so clearly in the Upper Room before he eats his final meal, he takes a moment and washes the disciples feet. Peter questions his actions and Jesus responds to him with the clearest naming of Peter being in liminal space.
7 Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”John 13:7
When will “later” come? We are tired of being confused. Of not fully understanding. Or even just seeing where this is headed. I’d settle for having an inkling of what this new way of living and being will be like and how the Church will function in this new way of being. The truth that some of us are struggling to accept is that life will never be the same as we used to know it. Between the trauma and life altering habits of COVID 19, the ever increasing political divisiveness, the boiling over anger of people for a variety of reasons, the racial wokeness emerging for us white people, and economic ups and downs – life has entered a new era. We as individuals don’t quite know what to make of it. The Church REALLY doesn’t know what to make of all of this change. And. It’s. Exhausting.
I’m going to continue to reflect on this idea of Liminal Fatigue, but here are a few things I know. Jesus was right. Eventually, the disciples did understand why he was washing their feet, why he was talking some seemingly mumbo jumbo about bread being his body broken and juice being his blood poured out, why he was saying he wouldn’t be with them much longer but would never actually leave them. From the other side of the cross looking backward, they began, with time, to understand. To see more clearly.
And I believe the prophet Jeremiah when he said God knows the plans God has for us – for good things, not bad. And I cling to the full story of the Israelites eventually making their way out of the desert after 40 rough years and into the Promised Land- no longer slaves in Egypt, but new settlers in a new place, living a new life. And if I believe Scripture is God’s promised and living Word that speaks truths into my own life, then I have to believe I, too, will make it through this exhausting liminal season. And I believe you will, too. I believe we can keep from going from acute fatigue to chronic fatigue. Dig deep. Lean hard and heavy into God’s promises of a future worth waiting for. Remember Jesus’ promise that we are not alone, never alone and seek the Holy Spirit in your life to sustain you in your weakest, darkest, weariest moments. And trust that yes, this too will pass.
This liminal season is just that – a season. We are going to land in a new and recognizable norm. I believe that will be sooner rather than later. It just feels so hard right now because we are so tired right now. And somehow, we must find a way to be comfortable in not knowing what God is up to in this moment but trusting that God is indeed up to something. And I believe that when all is said and done – there will be something beautiful to behold. But being in the cocoon – it’s kind of messy and yucky. For now.
Grace and Peace,