Cooperative Economics | "Impact-First" Investing | Transformative Leadership

Liminal Space

I’ve been in a liminal space for a little while now.

This week, it has started to get uncomfortable.

I’ve found myself this week wanting to plunge into deeper explorations of what’s on the horizon. Today, two conversations reminded me that this liminal space is a generative place — and something I want to stay with, despite the discomfort.

Liminal space is an in-between space. It is the space when you are ‘on the verge’ of something new: you are between ‘what was’ and ‘what will be’. You are waiting and not knowing about what will come.

~Dr. Chris Dew

I’m starting to find myself naming what I think is on the horizon. I’m starting to name what I think is to come. The problem is, this is exactly the problem and behavior that I’m trying to move away from. (Acting on my own, on my hunches and the belief that I can make things happen… rather than listening and aligning to God and a collective of others who, when I take the time, I can gain deeper alignment with and can go much farther when we go together.)

I’m trying to learn and remind myself that deep down, I really know and understand that I’m not in control. (Though my behaviors and the conventional story that gets told about entrepreneurial success emphasizes the agency and decision-making of an individual, versus the set of conditions that were outside of my individual control that were more of a factor than anything else.) I first started wrestling with this question of control – and God – during a retreat I did with Fr. Richard Rohr 10 years ago.

Then shortly thereafter I remember being so surprised when my partner and I found out we were expecting our first kid. It was an immediate slap in the face reminding me that even though I though I thought we were in control, I wasn’t.

Parenting these past 8 years has reminded me with similarly startling experiences time and time. Each experience with my kids helps jar me into deeper appreciation of how I’m not in control. Yet in business, and in our religious and non-profit organizations, we organizational leaders live and work under the auspices of us being in control.

Author and Franciscan friar Richard Rohr describes liminal space as:

where we are betwixt and between the familiar and the completely unknown. There alone is our old world left behind, while we are not yet sure of the new existence. That’s a good space where genuine newness can begin. Get there often and stay as long as you can by whatever means possible…This is the sacred space where the old world is able to fall apart, and a bigger world is revealed. If we don’t encounter liminal space in our lives, we start idealizing normalcy.

“Stay there as long as you can… and by whatever means possible…”

I love this line because it reminds me how privileged I am to be in this liminal space.

I must find a way to stay here and learn to embrace the discomfort of the completely unknown.

What lies beyond is truly more beautiful than anything I (acting alone) can make happen or imagine.

For me, the invitation of this liminal space is to be like a good shortstop — ready to move in any direction at the crack of the bat — as Fr. Dean Brackley, SJ describes in about the value of Ignatian Indifference:

“Indifference” means inner freedom….It means magnanimous generosity, abandonment into God’s hands, availability. It is not so much detachment from things as “detachability.” It means being like a good shortstop, ready top move in any direction at the crack of the bat.

Dean Brackley, SJ – excerpt from his book: The Call to Discernment in Troubled Times.

I’m learning that to make myself vulnerable and dependent on God and others might be the path forward.

A coach I’ve been working with asked me last week to listen for how collectives make decisions. One thing I can do in this liminal space is take the time to observe myself in group spaces. Take the time to observe how small groups, “collectives” that I’m a part of come to decisions.

I also want to be attentive to related questions like: How do new collectives form? What kinds of trust gets built? What kind of promises get made? What kind of space is left to discern and align our human participation in God’s bigger oikonomia?

Before I make any decisions, I want to allow myself to continue to be in this liminal space.

I want to see if I can extend this liminal space — because I do believe it is where “newness” can begin.

The person God’s inviting me to be — I believe is in this newness.

Part of the newness I believe I need — and I believe many of us in the global North need — is well articulated by this provokative quote from an article written by Dean Brackley:

After reflecting on these issues for some years, it only gradually dawned on me that I belong to a peculiar tribe. The middle-class cultures of the North are newcomers to world history and have only existed for about 200 years. We’re not all bad people, we’re just a tiny minority under the common illusion that we are the center of gravity of the universe. The poor can free us from this strange idea.

Dean Brackley, SJ – Meeting the Victim, Loving the Poor

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