Liminal might not be a word you use every day. In fact, you might need to ask Webster what it means. If that’s the case, I’ll save you the trouble. Liminal refers to being situated at the limen, the threshold at which a stimulus begins to produce an effect. It also has to do with relating to a transitional or intermediate state or stage. Essentially, it is that undefined and uncertain period of time between the ending of one thing and the beginning of another.
Having just celebrated Easter, I was reminded again of the liminal fog that Peter seemed to be in between John 20:10 and Acts 2:14. Early on Easter morning, he and John raced to the tomb and found it empty. After looking around and assessing the situation (to the best of their limited understanding), they must have stared at each other for a few seconds until one of them said, “No sense hanging around here. Let’s go home.” On the way, they probably decided that they needed to secretly get the rest of the guys together and see if they could wrap their heads around what just happened. Mary’s afternoon message to them underscored that it was certainly a good idea to do so. (Apparently, Thomas couldn’t make it with such short notice.) That night, appearing out of nowhere, Jesus wished them peace in the midst of confusion and gave them a graphic example of what the Holy Spirit was, the unseen third member of the Trinity that would come upon them later on. A week hence, they met again and got a second look (and Thomas got his first look and an admonition).
Bible scholars are not sure how much time elapsed between the end of John 20 and the beginning of John 21, but the opening of the last chapter in the fourth gospel still finds the disciples in a liminal state. When Peter says in John 21: 3, “I’m going fishing,” he was essentially saying, “I have no idea where our risen Rabbi is, His plan for us to forgive the sins of others wasn’t clear, the opposition toward Him and all of us is still strong, and I’ve got bills to pay. Guys, I’m going back to fishing.” It took a heart-to-heart discussion following a morning fish fry and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit for Peter to step out of the liminal fog and find his future.
Perhaps you’re situated at the limen right now — having seen all your efforts go into something that hasn’t yet produced results and wondering what to do, or waiting for an answer from God regarding a new project or a new opportunity. The longer you stay there, the harder it is to get going again. Maybe you feel you just can’t do what’s expected of you, or that the opposition you will face is not worth it. But if God is calling you to complete something or to begin a more brazen role, don’t fade into the fog. Depend on wise counsel and the Holy Spirit, then step forward, realizing that what’s ahead is just another stage in your ongoing transformation that He has ultimately promised, in Philippians 1:6, to bring to a flourishing finish.