What you ask? What is liminal thinking? Liminal is not an everyday word in any sense. It does not make its way to the average conversation. It’s not like you are out shopping for a car and suddenly say to yourself, “I’d like to buy this car, but my thinking is liminal.” I can see it more in the context of a college professor who would say this to their class or a criminal law attorney who would say this to a judge.
Funny, after studying the meaning of liminal and trying my best to understand the application of the definition, I now believe, ironically, that we should all not only say it more, but also, do it more. Be liminal in our thinking.
My old school, bookcase, 1971 Funk and Wagnalls New Comprehensive International Dictionary of the English Language (Deluxe Reference Edition) describes liminal as an adjective and defines it as relating to or at the threshold, entrance, or beginning. Coming from the Latin, limen. Today, Google defines liminal in two segments, 1. Relating to a transition or initial stage of a process, and 2. Occupying a position at, or on both sides of, a boundary or threshold. What comes to mind in both definitions is a doorway, a physical doorway always has a visual threshold. I can see myself with one foot outside of the door threshold and the other foot inside. Growing up, I was taught never to step ON the threshold, but always to step OVER the threshold. To this day, I still cringe when I am with people that are entering or exiting and they step directly ON the threshold in a doorway.
Further thinking of the Google definition, the interjection of the word boundary. It is easy if we view the boundary referred to as physical, it is quite the mind-blowing experience if we view the boundary as an emotional behavior. Now we have some liminal thinking to do.
In his book, Liminal Thinking, Dave Gray sets forth a doable system for change through our own liminal thinking. Starting with six basic principles and nine practices, Gray breaks down our belief about our beliefs. Analytical types will enjoy this step-by step analysis and emotional types will warm up to the creative artistry he paints for us in the why. Once Gray brings us to a pivotal moment in why we believe what we believe, he allows us to see our belief system in a new light allowing us to move into a new and different direction. Gray feels, “No matter who you are or what your situation is, some change is always possible.”
On the flip side, Spencer Johnson M.D., author of Who Moved My Cheese? Is comically convincing that change is inevitable, we should be aware of change, and decide what type of person we are going to be during the process of finding new cheese after our old cheese is moved.
“Honour the Space Between No Longer and Not Yet.” – Nancy Levin
If Gray tells us that change is possible and Johnson tells us that change is inevitable, then thank you Levin. In some cases, the long space between no longer and not yet can be overwhelming and other times it may be too short to process.
Biblically, I can visualize Jesus telling Nicodemus he has to be born again. On Kevin Keating’s webpage, The Bible Artist Blog, Keating refers to the character of Nicodemus, very well played by Erick Avari in the Christian fiction series The Chosen, as an in-betweener. Here the story line delves deep into the space Levin describes as ‘no longer’ and ‘not yet’. Nicodemus, A Pharisee, is torn between the Sanhedrin, rule-based law or belief system he has known all his life and served him well, to questioning (no longer) the law, pausing for liminal thinking, and transitioning (not yet) into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. The scenes between Jesus, played by Jonathan Roumie, and Nicodemus are emotionally moving. The historical documentation of Nicodemus after the crucifixion tells us, as Gray states, that his belief system changed by reframing, there was a change in behavior, and it, therefore, changed his life. In this case, not only did it change his life on earth, but may have changed his eternal life.
We can reshape our earthly and eternal life now with liminal thinking.