Lord, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Thomas Merton
Yesterday, we mourned Jesus’ death and walked through his pain. Tomorrow, we will celebrate Jesus’ resurrection and the promise of new life. But today—between the darkness of Good Friday and the joy of Easter Sunday, Holy Saturday hangs suspended.
Holy Saturday is the hollow, or liminal, space between Good Friday and Easter Sunday.
A “liminal space” is a place, a gap, where a person is during a transitional period. Motels are liminal spaces. Waiting in a doctor’s office is a liminal space. “Liminal” is an art and literature term that describes the space between two realities—it comes from the Latin, limin, which means: threshold. When you stand on a threshold (in a doorway), you have exited one room, but have not yet entered another.
Liminal spaces have been described as transitional or transformative spaces, and such places are often associated with a forlorn atmosphere, with little perspective, that often renders us incapable of a response. It’s an unsettled in-between moment.
For the disciples, they were caught in a liminal place of disorientation and confusion, between Friday and Sunday, unsure of what would come next. Their dreams, hopes, and plans for the future, lay buried in a tomb. We experience liminal spaces all the time. In fact, we just came through a liminal space: a global pandemic. Like the disciples, our lives were turned upside down. The world shut down, and suddenly the world as we knew now feels shaky and uncertain. And we didn’t know what to do.
But liminal spaces by their very nature are not wasted spaces. They are temporary (you aren’t meant to stay there); they lead to somewhere else; somewhere where you really want to be. Like the silence of the tomb, it is a crucial in-between time when there seems no apparent activity, but knowing there is something significant happening “underground”.
Maybe you are in your own sort of in-between, liminal space. An unexpected or expected job loss; a relationship that has ended; unwelcomed challenges to your health…Like the disciples, you might feel disoriented, confused, untethered, or anxious. Our most basic instinct is to jettison our way out of liminality as soon as humanly possible. But maybe instead of running, you might need to sit in the dark; to hold a vigil; to allow for grief; to acknowledge the in-between. And hold out for hope.
Interestingly, the Gospels are somewhat silent about what happened on Holy Saturday.
We know the disciples remained in hiding. But it was also Sabbath. Even with the harrowing event of Friday, Luke mentions that the disciples rested on the Sabbath according to the commandment (23:56b). Perhaps we too should sit uncertain, silently waiting, quietly lamenting, hopefully praying in our own Holy Saturday.
Unlike the disciples, we can see the certainty of the resurrection. Because of that, we can begin to see our liminal spaces—even this moment now—as a location for transformation. Liminal space can paradoxically be the birthplace of an ever-increasing faith.
Because God is not in the habit of wasting things. Every moment is filled with the possibility of a resurrection.
For those who find themselves in a liminal space, I offer you this prayer by Thomas Merton:
My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you
does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road,
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always
though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.
Love this Gail! You certainly gave me something to think about.
Stay with it! There are always good thing things hidden in what gives us pause.