Let’s talk about liminal spaces. The places where time seems to slow or stop altogether. The places where you’re waiting for something to happen but know nothing ever will. It’s the place between “what was” and “what’s next.” It can be both anxiety-inducing and soothing at the same time.
Author and theologian Richard Rohr describes liminal spaces as a place “where we are betwixt and between the familiar and the completely unknown. There alone is our old world left behind, while we are not yet sure of the new existence. That’s a good space where genuine newness can begin. Get there often and stay as long as you can by whatever means possible…This is the sacred space where the old world is able to fall apart, and a bigger world is revealed. If we don’t encounter liminal space in our lives, we start idealizing normalcy.”
In other words, liminal spaces are not meant to be their own entity, but a place between two known points. And although it’s important to get from Point A to Point B, let’s take a second to wait in the in between. Here are some examples of liminal spaces you might encounter:
- Hospitals at midnight
- Empty hotel hallways
- Early in the morning near untouched snow
- In the mountains or forest, just out of earshot of the highway
- Empty museum exhibits
- Schools during a break
- Inside a dark closet
- A grocery store after midnight
- Looking up while you’re underwater
- An interstate between the hours of midnight and 6 am
- Any Target
- Curled up in a blanket in the backseat of a car on your way home from a long day at the beach
- Bathroom at a concert venue
- One of the small chapels on the Carthage College campus
- Your bedroom at 3 am when it’s raining outside
- Unfamiliar gas stations
I know we can all agree that reality is altered in all of these places (and many more), but why are they so important? Why am I bringing them up now?
Simply because it’s the end of February. Spring semester has already started and, along with it, the stress. Seniors are becoming increasingly more anxious about the graduation lurking around the corner. Sophomores and juniors are nervous about starting off on the right foot this time while freshmen are still trying to get the hang of college. People are all caught up in finishing assignments, rushing a fraternity or sorority, starting a spring sport, or maintaining a solid friend group that they seem to forget about the realities outside of their own. They forget to breathe.
I challenge you to take a moment sometime in the next week or so to find your own liminal space. Maybe it’s under the staircase in your favorite academic building. Perhaps it’s the empty lightbulb and charcoal aisle in your local grocery store. It can even be found if you’re just sitting in the backseat of your own car. Wherever it is, take a second to stop and appreciate the world around you. You only get so many chances to experience liminal spaces, so make them count.