King of the Threshold People

“ Let’s not be afraid to look at everything that has brought us to where we are now and trust that we will soon see in it the guiding hand of a loving God.”
Henri Nouwen, from Bread for the Journey

I spoke to a recovery group in Indiana last week and had the opportunity to share my story with the staff of a large church there that same afternoon. I had the opportunity to honestly share my struggles, doubts, and shifting ideas that at one point in my life would have scared me to even admit to myself, let alone a group of ministry professionals. During the time of Q&A that followed a pastor asked me if there was one thing that I could say I held to with certainty amid all the swirling doubts that followed me into the threshold season of life in which I found myself. I told him that I was pretty sure of two things: God is in control, and Jesus cares deeply. For me those two things are enough these days.

I have written about the Threshold People to some extent recently – those of us for whom life seems to be standing still finding us somewhere between who we once knew ourselves to be, and the person that our new paradigms, challenges and ideas have yet to completely reveal.

We don’t have to read much of Henri Nouwen’s work to realize that he is probably king of the Threshold People. He speaks so much about living in the tension of the now and the not yet. He has been said to consider his vocation as a priest that of connecting the spiritual with the earthbound.

His bouts of clinical depression, desires for intimacy in light of the vows of celibacy he took as a Catholic priest, and a host of other deeply personal issues are said to have plagued him until his death in 1996. Still, his written works live on as a beacon of hope to those who find themselves in similar seasons when life and faith collide leaving us seemingly motionless in the portals.

Nouwen’s statement regarding the guiding hand of a loving God reminds us that it is that loving hand which brought us into the thresholds and it will be that loving hand which ushers us on from them and on to the next. What I love most about his writing is the faithful way he points others to hope and purpose in the midst of his own pain.

As we live out community together our greatest gift to one another is to hold out hope. This isn’t a hope that comes from being profound. It is simply a hope that reminds one another of the guiding hand of a loving God.

God is in control, and Jesus cares deeply. Even in the thresholds.

People of the Thresholds

Last week I wrote about the threshold places in our lives. Something called “liminal space” where we are in between what was and what is yet to come. I was encouraged at how many people touched base with me through Facebook, Twitter, and my email to tell me that this is exactly where they believe that they have found themselves to be and have viewed that season very negatively up to now.

After doing a little more reading this week I have been encouraged to consider creating liminal spaces in my life. Instead of fearing, dreading or avoiding those in between places where everything feels like it is standing still I’m encouraged to actually seek them out. It is in those spaces that we learn to truly desire the guidance of the Holy Spirit, not just accommodate it if it should materialize. It is also in those liminal spaces that we learn who we truly are.

I believe this is the space where the most sincere forms of worship take place. These are the places where we are basically saying to God, “Unless you show up here in this, I am done for!” It is a place of very simple prayers, honest confessions, and humble praise. Thresholds teach us that anything beautiful that has happened is a gift, any comfort is truly from his Spirit, and that whatever we experience in this interim is intentional preparation.

The thresholds teach us the difference between what we really believe and what we only wish we believe.

I’m beginning to see that those whom I call the People of the Thresholds are not always the most comfortable to be around. We have so many questions, we probe beyond the stock answers, and nudge until we feel like we are a little closer to the whole truth. For those who are not in that space it can be off-putting and even seem a bit caustic.

This is where I see some of us experiencing what I call “the steeple in the road” by the church.

The obstacles of pat answers, the need to tie a bow around our pain, to “fix” us, or to speak in a dialect of Christian-ese that we don’t even understand is the church dragging the steeple into the road. For many the steeple in the road is any time that the church has ignored, misunderstood, or mislabeled them.

I believe it is the People of the Thresholds who can actually move the steeple out of the road for so many who question whether they even belong in Christian community or not. Maybe the most sincere form of Christian community is one that worships in the thresholds.