A few weeks ago, I wrote a Guest Blog for my friend Alice at Me Set Free. It’s a bit of an historical one, but it really explains quite a lot; both about this old clay jar business, and about how I’m feeling right now.
Right now, you see, I have very little control; and so right now I feel like I’m going round the bend. I’m generally, (shall we put it nicely?) rather… driven. But right now; right now I’m struggling to find a clutch, or a break, or even an accelerator; and so instead, I’m driving myself up the wall.
The positive thing about this, of course, is that it’s not at all lonely up here. There’s quite a sizeable gaggle of us spouses counting bricks and scraping sticks against the daunting construction ahead. It’s just that, you know, some of us are a bit more Humpty Dumpty than Spider-Man, when it comes to scaling walls; and some of us are a bit more king’s horses about responding to the call.
So… What’s the crack?!
Well, the final term is finally underway; which is a bit like letting loose a boulder and watching it pick up speed. It’s happening; it’s about to happen; the end of this stage and the start of the next is very, acutely, upon us. But it’s not quite happening yet.
Ember cards, (note: seemingly selective invitations to attend or pray for ordinations that most can’t go to because they’re at their own…) are starting to appear. Removal vans are booked; students are modelling clergy contraptions that they actually intend to wear; and there’s an awful lot of banter about gingham.
We are actually about to do this. Actually; but not quite yet.
Husband, of course, still has over five thousand words to write; a dissertation to finalise, a week of block teaching on death and dying (save the light stuff til last!) and a number of vital training days left. He’s busy right down to the wire. Wife, however; Wife is flailing just a little bit. See, I’ve just handed over all of the ‘roles’ that I’ve been fulfilling here; and so all of those outlets for my strengths and skills are now in the past. The future could hold a lot more opportunity; but it will be quite a while before I, personally, get to that.
And so I find myself here; somewhat unsettled, in the space in between.
And the space in between holds all of the things that I’m not very good at. Things like waiting; patience; uncertainty; reliance… admin. My mind is constantly wandering, with a half-blind sense of direction. So, whilst trying to make the most of our final few weeks here and continue to live the dream; I’m also trying to work out what needs doing, that can be done, in preparation for when we leave. And the answer is: firstly, lots, but secondly, not all that much.
So, I guess right now is mostly about half-hearted tasks. Tasks that involve waiting for replies and call backs and data. Tasks that I therefore have to start, and then leave – uncrossed from lists!- until later.
And I think you know how much I hate that.
So, for this week’s therapy, I spent three consecutive hours just Googling play groups and classes and drawing up a timetable, so that I could be confident that we- or the kids, at least- could hit the ground running. In the process, however, I got so depressed about the cost of Drama groups that I somehow managed to remember that I’m actually a Drama teacher; and thus, by midnight, had scrapped the timetable and drawn up my own pre-school programme right out of the church hall.
Oh yes! See! Just look at how resourceful I can be!
But just… You know… not yet.
Hang fire; first things first; get the kids settled; Husband into work.
I’m a sitting duck, about to quack…
But on the other hand; there’s not enough time for that.
Seriously… What gives?!!
A few months ago, a friend introduced our spicy spousey group to the concept of liminality. Apparently, it comes from the Latin ‘limens’, meaning ‘threshold’, and quite literally describes this, right now; the space in between. Good old Dr. Google (the PHD type this time; not my medical menace), says the liminal space 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 between your old comfort zone and any possible new answer.” His mate Wiki, meanwhile, talks about it in terms of rituals; the interlude between what you are now, and what you will be once the forthcoming ritual has taken place.
Don’t you just love words?!
There are words to describe this! This space that I would most likely have dubbed, “Meh!”, actually has its own word.
Now that, to me, is beautiful.
The thing is, the friend who introduced it would probably, along with others in the room, have described their entire time here at college as a liminal space. See, we have been here for three years, but many only serve two; which, in reality, translates to eighteen months. Meaning that some spouses have left jobs and homes and communities; uprooted their families and left former lives behind; in order to support their partner’s call to ministry for little more than eighteen months. They’ve only just arrived, before they’re preparing to leave. So whilst on the one hand, it is a huge privilege and a rare opportunity for a break; it is, on the other hand, a rather unsettling and uncomfortable path to take.
However, in gifting us with the concept of the liminal space; this friend was offering the encouragement that, for us, this time was also not a waste. That if we believe that God is everywhere, which most of us do; then it makes sense that whilst He is training our partners, He is preparing us – and our families- too.
Upon hearing this, another friend responded that the next time someone asked her what she was doing with her life, she would confidently tell them she was “exploring her liminal space.” (Which, yes, someone else did point out sounded a bit dubious and so the whole conversation went downhill from there!)
But… You get the gist!
So, this weekend I have been trying to, as Tinker puts it, “chill my beans out mate!” To accept this stage for what it is. To get a little less pedantic and gain a little more perspective; and to try to look for the messages here, instead of just the mess.
So this month, if you see this ordinand’s wife,
With that strange, deranged smile upon her face;
Don’t be alarmed; (but don’t stand too close!);
She’s exploring her liminal space!