The art of slow, the practice of living a slower and smaller life, has been the theme of recent blogs. To this end, the first and best thing our family did was intentionally slow down and truly live in the now. After all, according to survival specialist Laurence Gonzales, the first rule of life is to "be here now". In his book, Deep Survival, Gonzales goes on to say that when you discover you are lost, stop. Take a moment and be present in your lostness. Familiarize yourself in your new surroundings; settle your mind to this new reality. After you are able to do these mental exercises, only then can you start to find your way.
Our lostness is not geographical or physical, but metaphorical. We have been lost in our own world, but instead of wanting to be found, we are embracing this moment of transition and indecision. This place, known as the in between, is called liminality. Many people arrive at a place like this in their life but don't recognize it, or are scared by it, and ironically end up fighting for the familiar life that lead them to it in the first place. Culture trains us that liminality is to avoid, not to embrace, and certainly not to enjoy. From the Latin root limi for threshold or transition, liminality is not exclusively negative, but when intentionally recognized and embraced, can be a defining moment in life. When you reach this place, you have three basic choices:
- Fight to return to the lifestyle that squeezed purpose out of you.
- Lose yourself in liminality and become a shell of the person you were meant to be.
- Treat it as a pilgrimage, realize it is temporary and make the most of it.
Throughout history, pilgrimage has been used to guide people through liminality. A pilgrimage is an intentional journey, detached from everyday life, for the purpose of seeking spiritual clarity, renewing vocational passion or simply discovering your ability to dream once agian. With this understanding in mind, pilgrimage is simply the tool used to purposefully embrace liminality so that when you emerge from it, you are not only more true to yourself but ready to live in the present moment with intent.
It has been a great relief to recognize liminality in our own lives. With that in mind, the question of how to embrace it has been relevant. As a church pastor, I submit to a denomination, the Free Methodist Church, and when they offered sabbatical a couple of years ago, I was just too busy to take it. This sabbatical has been extended again and this time we accepted the offer. Our un-official sabbatical started June 1, but because we won't be leaving town until June 10, that day begins official sabbatical. We want to use these 3 months as a way to better honor this time and place in our lives. It is unfortunately natural to ask, "What comes after pilgrimage?" I think the answer to this question is what stops most of us from embracing liminality because we need to know how this thing ends before we step forward. What if liminality keeps the answer out of our reach? What if all the faith and energy we have is spent on the decision to embrace transition? To know the end is vacation and to travel into the unknown, an adventure. I think this spirit defines pilgrimage and the act of truly embracing liminality, the spirit of action towards the vast unknown.
The adventure is in traveling toward the unknown.
Such is the solitary vocation...the solitary knows lest where he is going and yet he is more sure, for there is one thing he cannot doubt: He travels where God is leading him. That is precisely why he doesn't know the way. And that too is why, to most other men, the way is something of a scandal.
February 17, 2015: Choose the journey. One step at a time. Pack up, leave what we know. Choose simpler. Choose the unknown. Chose the desert, the wilderness, the road. It seems everything - and I mean everything - is pointing us that way. Random stories I hear, books I read, off the cuff advice, longing, and desire, seems to be streaming one thing, take a pilgrimage. Go. Be. Love. Surrender. Struggle.
Matthew Hansen, from my journal
Our family is leaving for a month long road trip in one week; this is very much out of our comfort zone. We are going to places most of us have not been before. Most of all, we don't know what's next and we aren't trying to figure it out. What we do know is that we want to live deeply in every moment and to learn what it means to live ordinary well.