Thursday, March 25, 2010

Liminality--Wesley Foundation E-Letter (Methodist Campus Ministry)

Dear Friends, hope you are all well.  I am so looking forward to Wesley tonight!  It will be so good to see each and every one of you.  And I have a surprise for everyone who comes!  I got you all a present!  WOO HOO!!!!  You have to come and see what it is!  It will bless you, bless you, bless you!


Also, a word about Spring Retreat.  If you haven’t told me you are coming, RSVP to facebook or let me know through e-mail, in person, by phone, etc.  Thanks!


Now For Sami’s Ramblings About Jesus:


It is such a privilege to serve the body of Christ in the way that I get to.  I get to walk with young adults through some of the most formative days of their lives.  It is a time of discovery; separated from the framework of home, students must stand without the supports that formerly bolstered them, trying their own strengths that had once been tended and nurtured under the watchful eyes of parents.  I have often said that the most important education of college doesn’t happen in the classroom.  It is the education of learning how to live your own life, separated from home, yet still in an arena of freedom that still provides a safety net for the most scary steps of all.  And some of you make your way to my office, its own kind of safety net, and together we get to explore how walking through life supporting yourself feels.  It is scary, uncertain, thrilling, exciting, new, filled with exhilaration, yet constantly dogged by the unknown.  In a word, it is liminal. 


Liminal is such an unusual word.  My spell check doesn’t even recognize it.  It keeps asking me if I want to replace it with the word “luminal.”  No.  Liminal is exactly what I want to say.  My edition of Webster’s defines liminal as:  “of, relating to, or situated at the limen.”  Limen, according to Webster, means “threshold.”  And here is what Webster has to say about threshold: 


1) the plank, stone, or piece of timber that lies under a door: sill 2) a: gate, door b: (1): end, boundary; specifically: the end of a runway (2): the place or point of entering or beginning:  outset 3) the point at which a physiological or psychological effect begins to be produced (~ of consciousness) (a high renal clearance ~).


So liminality is best described as an in-between time or place.  In essence, things are ending and beginning simultaneously.  To be liminal is to be suspended between two points, without belonging to either.  For all of you biology majors, it is that moment when a neurotransmitter is suspended between the synapses of two neurons.  For all of you outdoor recreation buffs it is that moment when one is jumping from one rock to another and you are hanging in mid-air.  For all of you car owners who drive a manual transmission, it is that moment where you disengage the clutch in order to give it gas.  Hard to define where one ends and the other begins, but something significant is definitely happening.


As Christians, ones who belong to Christ, our spiritual walk is very liminal.  God is always wanting to do a new thing within us.  He is really into character development and new, abundant life.  Yet in order for the new thing to be born, something else must be relinquished.  So our lives become suffused with the tension of letting go and grabbing on.  Rarely does God manifest the new thing all at once.  It is a process that demands our blood, sweat and tears.  It must come from within us, so that it is truly a part of us.  Magic appearances do little more than scintillate our senses:  They have no lasting value; they are fleeting.  When God initiates change, it is a labor of Love, for Him and us.  This is God’s provision for lasting change; the cost assures us of its worth.  Thus we value the new life we are given.  But before it is born we labor with it.  Many times we are just so confused as to what the new thing is that we struggle with what old things must be retained as provision for the journey ahead or left behind as extra baggage.  These seasons are rarely neat; they are often messy, disorganized, and filled with disorientation.  And mostly these moments leave us exhausted, while we can’t even articulate why.  On the surface our lives may look as if not much is happening, yet inside tremendous change is taking place.


I believe God has enormous patience and love for those who have assented to the new thing He proposes; very rarely do we know what we get ourselves into.  And we cannot even say how or when or why we gave our yes, just that at some point we knew a time had come for the yes to be given.  I believe it is why our Lord has such a special place in His heart for college students.  Each one has said yes to such a radical upheaval of all that they know and love.  And not a one of them can say for sure where the pieces will lay when the four years are done.  Scariest of all is that sometimes at the end of four years, the degree is nowhere near finished, and that precious student stares into an uncertain future wondering where the time went.


So for all of those timid and tossed souls who are in the throws of liminality I bring tidings of Good News—God isn’t through with you:  “I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:4-6).  He has better things ahead, hopeful things and helpful things.  It is good to remember the butterfly that is formed only in the cocoon.  And Jesus does not arise resurrected from the cross.  First He was entombed for three days, and His resurrection is born from the resting place of His death.  Is the cocoon or tomb our true home?  Surely not!  But what looks dead on the outside nestles the stirrings of new life within, and at just the right time new life will burst forth with amazing clarity and joy.  Wait for it, it will come.  Hear His promises to you, dear one:  “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him” (I Corinthians 2:9).


This is me trusting,











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Sami Wilson

Campus Minister/Director

WKU Wesley Foundation

United Methodist Campus Ministry



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