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Liminal Space in our Senior Years

February 24, 2022 • Life for Leaders

Introducing Alice Fryling

I’m pleased to introduce you to Alice Fryling, who has written today’s devotion (and a few more). Alice is a spiritual director and the author of several wonderful books, including her latest: Aging Faithfully: The Holy Invitation of Growing Older.

I asked Alice to write several devotions that reflect the wisdom of Aging Faithfully. This means that they will be addressed directly to folks in the third third of life. If you’re in this season of life, you’ll find that these devotions speak to the challenges of opportunities of your life today.

If you’re younger than the third third – which officially begins these days in the U.S. at 52.7 years – I believe you’ll be grateful for these devotions for several reasons. First, what Alice has written is quite relevant for folks who aren’t yet in the third third. Second, it’s never too early to think about your future life and the difference God makes. Third, reading these devotions will help you relate to the older adults in your life.

I’m grateful to Alice for the devotions she has written and for her book, Aging Faithfully. By the way, I had a delightful online conversation with Alice about her book a couple of months ago. You can watch it here.

Grace and Peace, Mark

Scripture—Isaiah 43:19 (NIV)

See, I am doing a new thing!
+++Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
+++and streams in the wasteland.

Focus

Liminal space is the space in-between who we are and who we will be. As we approach the third third of life, we face liminal space. We are changing and life is changing in ways we cannot control. In this precarious place, God is inviting us to new life.

Devotion

Spiritually, liminal space is considered a sacred place where we can look for the grace of transformation. Liminal space occurs throughout our lives, but it becomes even more obvious to us as we face the new experience of getting older. Into the liminality of our senior years, God invites us to new life.

As much as I want to believe this, some days I find myself praying, “I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24, NRSV). On the days of my unbelief, it helps to remember that the Bible is full of stories of people who have gone through liminal space. The Israelites were in liminal space when Moses led them out of slavery in Egypt to move toward the unknown Promised Land. They didn’t like the experience of the unknown any more than I do. They said to Moses, “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt!” (Exodus 16:3, NIV). My version of that on my worst days is,  “If only I had died young!”

The Old Testament reports that generations after the Israelites fled from Egypt, a large number of Judeans were taken into Babylon after a military defeat. Living in captivity, away from their homes, must have been liminal space for them. But God said, “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce” (Jeremiah 29:5). This reminds me of my friends who don’t lament the liminality of retirement. They settle in and begin again. But others in retirement are like the exiles who wept over all that they had lost (Psalm 137:1). We all experience change and loss in different ways.

Whether we lament or rejoice, we can be assured that the Holy Spirit is with us. In the first chapter of the Bible, we learn that “The earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep” (Genesis 1:2). As we face the ever-changing landscape of aging, the future is unformed and dark. But in the liminal space of creation “the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” The Spirit continues to hover over all that God is creating in us and in the world.

Into that first darkness God said, “Let there be light” (Genesis 1:3). As we face the diminishments of age, which seem dark indeed, the Spirit of God whispers: “I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland” (Isaiah 43:19, NIV). God invites us to notice the hovering of the Spirit in our lives and to look for the light.

In this series of devotions we will consider how we can view the losses of aging in a new light and experience the depths of God’s love in new ways.

Reflect

When in your younger years did you experience liminal space? How did you respond to that time?

What parts of your life now feel like liminal space? How are you responding to liminality this time?

In what ways do you sense the Holy Spirit hovering over your liminal space today?

Act

Email or meet with a friend who is in the same stage of life as you. Share together what it means to each of you to see God doing new things in your lives. What do you like about that? What do you resist?

Prayer

Kind and merciful God, you promise to lead the blind by ways they have not known, along dark and unfamiliar paths. I have never gotten older before. Sometimes I can’t see or imagine what is happening to me. Please make the rough places smooth and do not forsake me. I will look for you every day of my life.  Amen. (See Isaiah 42:16.)

You can learn more about the De Pree Center’s Third Third Initiative here.

Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the High Calling archive, hosted by the Theology of Work Project. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Seeing God’s New Work


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2 thoughts on “Liminal Space in our Senior Years

  1. DiAnne says:

    God gives us strength to do what we need to do. The body is failing because of sin Paul says, but the spirit lives on.

    2 Corinthians 4:16-18

    Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer person is decaying, yet our inner person is being renewed day by day. For our momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

    Keep your eyes on the prize!

  2. Glenn Green says:

    We ALL have a choice (free will) ….born again believer or not! We can become members of the “LazyBoy Recliners” or “Get Up & Move in the strength of the Holy Spirit’s guidance & direction”…..What will you choose? Pray…Ask for wisdom! Glorify God in all things!

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