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Love Through Liminality
by Tom | Advent Week 3: Love
Our family has been with All Nations for a year and recently arrived in Asia to serve as field workers. As part of our internship with All Nations, we watched a webinar on “Liminality and Communitas.” It talked about how a community is strengthened and deepened when it undergoes a “liminal experience,” a kind of journey that can be likened to a rite of passage and is characterized by ambiguity or disorientation, usually resulting in a substantial change in the group’s identity, relationships, and character.
I appreciated this webinar a lot because it matched our own experience. During our internship before we launched to the field, we were part of a ministry that reached out to an underprivileged neighborhood in our city. It began with just myself and two men. We became friends with several neighborhood kids and were having them over for dinner and Bible study. They did not always show up, so a few times we would wait an hour, and then end up just worshiping and praying among ourselves. Later on, our families and other believers from the area joined us. For a several months we did street outreach, then for a while we met at a community center where we taught Jesus stories and hosted various activities. Toward the end, we even had several kids regularly joining us for simple church every week!
In addition to sharing Jesus with our neighbors, one of the most rewarding parts of our ministry was the relationships we built with each other. Though we faced numerous frustrations and challenges, and certainly felt disoriented on not a few occasions, we persevered and grew together. Through this liminal experience, we developed a love and trust toward one another that we wouldn’t have had otherwise. We bore one another’s burdens, witnessed each other’s weaknesses and limits, and yet remained committed, not just to the work of ministry, but to one another. It was out of this depth and quality of love that we were able to authentically love those we were reaching out to. Moreover, I believe they saw that our love was genuine and were compelled by it.
Jesus himself entered into what can be described as a liminal journey. He invited his disciples into that same process, which included discomfort and disorientation. They likely had their share of frustrations, awkward silences, and misunderstandings during their three and a half years together. This culminated in a betrayal, Jesus’ crucifixion, and the disciples’ abandonment. Yet across that most painful threshold was the glory of the resurrection and the disciples’ restoration. One can only imagine the depth of character, conviction, and closeness this journey with Jesus engendered among that nascent community. Liminality is inherent in the discipleship experience, as modeled by Jesus himself.
As we journey through Advent, let us be encouraged to entrust ourselves to this sometimes disorienting and ambiguous process, knowing that as we go through it together in love, we become “one in heart and mind” (Acts 4:32) and the world will know we are his disciples by our love for one another (John 13:35).
Written by Tom, an All Nations missionary in Asia.