On A Divine Road Trip
On a divine road trip, the detours are essential. –Carmen Joy Imes, Bearing God’s Name
This week I learned a new word. The word is “liminality.” It comes from a Latin word, “limen,” which means “threshold.” It means to be in an in-between place, not outside the room, but not in the room either. It’s the place of transition—like bus stations or airports or waiting rooms. It’s not a destination, but a way point. Life is full of liminal moments. Every human culture has a way of marking and celebrating these transitional times: birth, becoming an adult, marriage, having children, and death are just a few. If you think about it you can remember some of the other key transitions in your own life: graduations, beginning a new job, and retiring.
Something is passing away, something we can’t know is coming, and we can’t go back. We are all one-way time travelers. The Christian life takes these liminal times seriously—in a real sense the Christian life is nothing but transitional times. To paraphrase Imes, the Christian life is a divine road trip with plenty of detours. Elsewhere in her book Imes also makes a point of say that “somethings can only be learned in a state of dislocation.” Perhaps we’re more open and teachable when we’re forced out of our stable comfort zone.
Did Jesus have experiences transitional/liminal times? I can think of two we know of. The first is the transition from “private life” to his public ministry, marked by the liminal period of his baptism and temptations in the wilderness. Before his baptism Jesus is very much a private citizen. After his temptations in the wilderness he comes back from the desert and only then begins his public ministry.
There’s also a passage, recorded only in Luke, where Jesus makes a puzzling declaration: “I came to cast fire upon the earth. How I wish that it was already ablaze! I have a baptism I must experience. How I am distressed until it’s completed! (Lk 12:49-50) Jesus is looking forward to a time after to his crucifixion and resurrection. In the meantime he is “distressed,” but the word in Greek literally means to be confined or constrained. His whole earthly ministry was a liminal/transitional time pointing to something beyond, to the end, the completion: the establishment of God’s Reign on earth. His Kingdom has come, but is not yet completed (that will happen only at the end of the age when Jesus returns).
We who believe and who are surrendered to his rule are living as citizens of the Kingdom now. We live on the threshold of what is coming. It’s an odd kind of divine road trip, full of detours, but the time is coming. The Apostle John describes our life on the road:
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure. (I Jn 3:1-3)
Soli Deo Gloria! Come Lord Jesus!
Rev. Don Muncie