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Liminal time exists in the cracks in our lives and the cracks in the life of the world that lie between the passing of the old and the coming of the new. Of course, there are other ways of looking at the world, ways that emphasize the continuities rather than the discontinuities. Those seem to have been the most modish of late.
In times of stability, we gain insight from perspectives that emphasize continuity and similarity; in liminal time, we gain insight from acknowledging that great sea-changes do occur every once in a while. There are indeed Damascene events that forever divide things into before and after. Usually, they occur only once the old order has exhausted itself. The conventional way of understanding the original Damascene moment seems to presume that Saul was shaken out of deeply held convictions by the blinding light that is Truth; I think that presumes too much, for it was already hard for Saul to kick against the pricks. For the most part, a crisis merely crystallises and brings into sharper focus elements that were already present. The old ways had already become a source of discord and discomfort to Saul, yet he seems to have remained trapped within those frameworks, perhaps because he saw no alternative but a sort of internal anarchy. In that, Saul is something of an everyman, for rare indeed is the courage to discard what is worn out before there is something already in existence to replace it with. It takes profound humility to acknowledge the transience of most of what we take for granted, to admit that the only open paths lead to unknown destinations by winding routes.
Yet it is only through courageously and humbly accepting that the old things are gone that we can be of full use to God in creating the new. The former things were already passing; it does us no good to deny not only how much we shall need to learn but also how much we shall need to unlearn. If we grasp the nettle and admit things are broken before we know how to fix them, then we are suddenly open to doing good that was hitherto literally unimaginable. Those who embrace liminal space enjoy a rare interval of deep freedom to imagine and help midwife new ways of living and being.
The Christian who wishes to thrive in liminal space must anchor himself in firm hope in Christ and His promises, and in that hope seek to discern how God is calling him to contribute to building the Kingdom; for the Kingdom is eternal precisely because it always being made new. Discernment in a time of uncertainty is inevitably a matter of risks, openness to short-term failure, and frequent bewilderment; for only through that can God grant us the moments of dreaming or vision that are his typical waypointers to new life. Often these are fleeting and otherworldly, yet of Damascene implications if embraced; like the image of a cathedral in golden evening sun that forms in a puddle for a few minutes before passing, yet reveals a beauty that forever changes the way we look at the building.
In conclusion, understandings that emphasize continuity bring richness and insight, for each of us always remains himself and all of us always remain human. Like all perspectives, however, they are limited. Just as a photographer will choose his perspective depending on the time of day and year, weather conditions, subject matter, and the like, sometimes we must consciously open ourselves to new perspectives on ourselves and our world.
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