Kate Dugdale

Liminal Spaces: Freaking out about transition

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Transition is difficult. It’s hard to know how to feel in the midst of coming, and going, leaving the old, and starting the new, even when we know what we’re going to is something good.

What about when we don’t know what comes next? There are times when a season comes to an end, but God hasn’t yet opened the door into something new.

We find ourselves in the ‘grey space,’ evading questions about the future, and desperately hoping that something concrete comes our way soon.

There’s a phrase I find really useful to describe this space – ‘liminal space.’ It describes being in transition, standing on a threshold, but being unsure of which way you should aim, or which direction God is pointing you in. Richard Rohr suggests that this space is sometimes referred to as a ‘luminous darkness,’ the space of ‘not-knowing’:

“It is when you have left the ‘tried and true’ but have not yet been able to replace it with anything else. It is when you are finally out of the way. It is when you are in between your old comfort zone and any possible new answer. It is no fun.” (p22 – Grieving as Sacred Space)

As someone who likes control and to plan, I find ‘liminality’ very uncomfortable… plus it’s a challenge to my pride and my sense of having it all together. I find myself worrying about the future – questions about calling, jobs, location and community are all strongly interwoven.

In this space, I want something firm to hang on to, a goal to aim at. But I don’t have one. Rarely am I comfortable with saying ‘I don’t know what’s next.’ Rather than be present to the uncomfortable fact that I do not have the answer and I am not in control, my own way of dealing with this space is to come up with all sorts of crazy options for the future, preferring the abstract, absurd and impossible over the unknown.

I can hide from the gift of liminal space, evading the ‘blessing of unknowing’ with busyness, tasks, excuses, and explanations. But it would be a waste. This space is actually an invitation to learn to live with ambiguity and anxiety, to trust and to wait. It’s a space in which I need to avoid the temptation to ‘explain away’ my unknowing, or to justify why I don’t have a five-year plan.

In this place, where the light has not been thrown upon what happens next, I’m being invited to trust, to lean into the God who has proved himself to be faithful time and time again. This ‘leaning in’ frees me from the burden of being in control, and of knowing exactly what to plan for. Instead, I’m invited into relationship, to embrace the vulnerability of not having all the answers, and instead to trust in the goodness, provision, and kindness of God.

 

THE MUSE

Are you in a space where you aren’t quite sure what the future holds, or you sense that a change may be coming? How can this idea of ‘liminal space’ help you to embrace the ‘not knowing’ as you wait for God to speak clearly?

THE MOVE

Ask God to place the right people around you as you journey through transition – whether now, or in the future. Be intentional about meeting with friends for prayer and conversation – you may not get all the answers you need, but having people who will support you in this space is invaluable.

 

#NZCMS is all about exploring what it means to be God’s missional people in today’s world. Sign up for the emailer by filling in your email at the top of the page or join the discussion at the #NZCMS Facebook Group (and turn on ‘all notifications’ to stay in the loop!) 

 

God and Skydiving

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I spend the majority of my time in what we would consider ‘Christian’ circles, and have realised two things.

1) I need a wider circle of friends, and

2) I’m more uncomfortable than I want to be about sharing faith-stuff with people I don’t know very well. As a result, I’ve been thinking a lot recently about missions, evangelism and courage, and how to become a more courageous person.

Usually when I think about courage, my first instinct is to think of big, bold and decisive acts… but I think that’s a very narrow view of courage. Sometimes it takes more courage to follow Jesus day in and day out than we recognise. Courage doesn’t just have to be about extreme acts of bravery – sometimes courage might be simply inviting someone out for coffee who you notice doesn’t have many friends to talk to. Courage might be volunteering at an afterschool programme, even though kids terrify you. It takes courage for me to be open about faith and God when I’m hanging out with friends who I know think differently from me.

There are a few things that can freak me out, most of which are pretty run of the mill: spiders, mice, and snakes (which luckily we don’t have in NZ!) My biggest, and most extreme fear, is heights. When I plan a tramping trip with friends, I have to check the route beforehand and make sure that we aren’t going to spend four days wandering along exposed ridgelines, because I won’t make it if we do. My fear of heights is pretty bad… so last year, my friends were somewhat confused at my decision to jump out of a plane at 13 500 feet. I’m the girl who will sit down and wait while everyone else climbs the summit, so I can’t really blame them for being surprised.

When you go tandem skydiving, you have to empty your pockets, and then put on a jumpsuit and a cap, before posing for selfies in front of the plane. You and your instructor then walk to the plane, where you then basically have to sit on their lap for the next twenty minutes while you fly to the jump height. The instructor straps you together on the way up – and you hope they do it right, because you can’t help at all. Once you’re in the plane, there is no way out. The door opens, and you shuffle to the edge and swing your legs out… hang there for a moment… and then suddenly you’re falling. The actual act of falling out of a plane is the instructor’s job, and not yours, since their the one who pushes you out. Oddly enough, when I found myself falling towards the ground at 200 kilometres per hour, I wasn’t afraid, and thought it was great.

This skydiving analogy, although cheesy, is the best I’ve come up with so far in my current ponderings about courage. Courage isn’t listed as a gift or fruit of the Spirit, but I still think that it’s something that God is actively at work shaping in us. I think that the way God causes us to become more courageous is similar to skydiving – we find ourselves in situations that are more uncomfortable, or harder than we would like them to be… but as we continue to follow God in those moments, courage is formed deep within us. We become more courageous people.

 

THE MUSE

What would you like to be less afraid of, and more courageous about?

 

THE MOVE

If you’re scared of heights, try skydiving. For the rest of us, remember that being courageous starts with small steps, and try to do something that makes you nervous this week.

 

Join the discussion at the #NZCMS Facebook Group.

Connect, Discover and Respond

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I’ve been known as a coffee aficionado (read: addict) for a few years now. I will drink instant coffee on the rare occasion where it would be rude to refuse hospitality, but I can usually be found at my desk by about 8:30am sipping on freshly brewed java, or beginning any roadtrip with a stop for a latte. However, I realised a couple of years ago that my coffee history is blemished in the eyes of coffee purists.

My dirty secret?

I worked as a barista at Starbucks for four years while I was a somewhat-broke undergraduate student. In the New Zealand coffee scene, Starbucks probably ranks somewhere above Wild Bean and McCafe, but is definitely sneered at by those who like to purchase their soy flat white from the local organic hipster roastery.

People who love their local café often hate on Starbucks because of its sameness. It’s why you can walk into stores in Nelson, Sydney and New York, and they all have a similar vibe. This doesn’t happen by accident. Although the décor, the uniform and the menu options are always similar, baristas have also been thoroughly trained – indoctrination might not be too strong a word – into the all-important Starbucks culture. The two hundred and fifty page training manual doesn’t only teach you how to correctly apply caramel sauce to a caramel macchiato (a single-drizzle crosshatch followed by a double-drizzle circle, in case you were wondering), but also about how to be Starbucks.

Baristas are taught five ‘green apron’ behaviours – be welcoming, genuine, knowledgeable, considerate, and involved. These are followed up by other customer service techniques, such as to ‘Connect, Discover and Respond’ – greet your customer and connect with them, discover something about them, and respond accordingly. I worked under fun shift supervisors, who would facetiously singsong this to me as they walked past, but I hated the sense that my interaction with people had to be moulded to this three point list.

It did work though – apparently, people feel safe telling their barista confidential news, like the customer who told me she was pregnant but hadn’t told her partner or her children yet.  Someone at Starbucks headquarters has been very smart and has caught onto an important principle – if people feel like they belong, are valued and are wanted, they’ll keep coming back (and, most importantly for Starbucks, spending money). The company plays on human emotional needs in order to keep their profits increasing.

So what does this all have to do with mission? Over the years, I’ve been in hundreds, if not thousands, of church services where people have been invited to raise their hands to signal that they want to become a follower of Jesus. It’s great when people genuinely respond, and not so great when it becomes a bit of a social-pressure scenario. What I’ve noticed tends to happen, however, is when people wave their hand in the air without having some sort of personal connection to the community, they’re a lot less likely to continue attending church. The ones who keep coming back are those who are welcomed and embraced as the glorious and creative individuals that they are, into the messy and diverse family of God – they know that they are wanted and that they genuinely belong.

Have a think about how this might apply to you, or affect how we think about missions and evangelism in our local churches? My suspicion is that our first question should never be ‘Are you a Christian’, but something more along the lines of ‘What’s been happening for you lately?’ It might mean being a bit less focused on the moment of decision… and more committed to walking it out together for the rest of our lives.

 

THE MUSE

How do you feel discovering that the friendly barista from Starbucks is simply following a careful marketing strategy to make you buy more coffee? Why is that? What difference should this make for us when we talk to others about our faith?

THE MOVE

Find an opportunity this week to Connect, Discover and Respond. Kate’s question is a good starting point: ‘What’s been happening for you lately?’

 

Kate spent her late teens connected to YWAM, the prayer movement  and working at her Church in Wellington. She’s since blasted her way through a Bachelor in Theology with Bishopdale Theology College in Nelson and is now beavering away at a PhD. Her passion is to see the local church grow in its understanding of and passion for mission.