Five year old Johnny was in the kitchen as his mother made supper. She asked him to go into the pantry and get her a can of tomato soup. But he didn't want to go in alone. “It’s dark in there and I’m scared.” She asked again, and he persisted. Finally she said, “It’s OK — Jesus will be in there with you.”
Johnny walked hesitantly to the door and slowly opened it. He peeked inside, saw it was dark, and started to leave when all at once an idea came, and he said: "Jesus, if you’re in there, would you hand me that can of tomato soup?”
These four weeks of Advent begin as never before, with a time as individuals, as a faith community, as a religious congregation, as a church, a nation, and inhabitants of this planet earth ~we all are faced with standing in liminality – an in-betweenness - hoping against hope that God is in the darkness of it all! Like Johnny, we, too, need to be courageous and creative and call out to our God to hand us what we need in this time of doubt, confusion, apprehension, and fear while walking in this space and time of uncertainty.
In her book, Journey of the Soul, Sister Doris Klein, describes this liminal experience: She writes: "When we face those times of uncertainty in our life, the scene is often blurry. Things we were so sure of suddenly make little sense. The answers we thought were clear now seem lost in a distant fog, and we wander aimlessly, unable to regain the focus we once believed we had. Our confusion is unsettling. Doubt, like vertigo, distorts our balance as we fearfully wander in a vast and empty inner wilderness as we wrestle with the darkness, a rush of panic washes into our hearts our breath becomes shallow and, with each question, the judgments seem to escalate.”
We are not to lose heart. Author Clarissa Pinkola Estes assures us . . . “We were made for these times,” she writes. “People everywhere are concerned and deeply bewildered about the state of affairs in our world. Ours is not a task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach. Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world will help immensely.” Yes, we are made for these times and as a people, a church, a nation, a world, we need generous, creative, imaginative people whose zeal can be ignited by the vision of a daring and not quite rational undertaking.
In our nation of abundance, let us not forget that over twenty percent of the children in our nation live in poverty. And in comparison with other industrialized nations, we have more high school drop outs, more violent crime among youth, more poverty among the elderly, more medically uninsured citizens, and the widest gap of income between the rich and the poor. Again, like Johnny, we need to call out to God and risk entering the darkness of these realities that cause us to ponder the scarcities and the inequities of our social system.
We are made for these times – and we must dare to become imaginative and creative so as to confront the dark forces that keep our minds and hearts hostage. When we live in liminality, we need to be able to take risks without worrying about the consequences. Henri Nouwen once wrote, “Faithful waiting is the antidote to fear and self-doubt. It is believing God can accomplish in us something greater than our imaginings.”
Now is the time for hope to be born again in the faces and hearts of our children and young adults, and where we all stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us as pillars of passion, heralds of hope, and voices with vision where it will spread around the earth, brightening all things. For we have been made for these times and as Paul writes to the Corinthians: That in God we are enriched in every way, and that we are not lacking in any spiritual gifts as we wait for the revelation of Christ Jesus.
It is here in this time that we are to be watchful, alert and awake so that we will encounter our God in our midst to create from the chaos as in Genesis. Advent is a season that invites us to cross over the threshold from darkness to light, from anxiety to a holy serenity, from emptiness to abundance, and to wholeheartedly turn to seek God who is already in the turning!
Yes, we are made for these times and called, invited, chosen, and challenged to be alert, awake, prepared and vigilant. So when God breaks into our lives in unexpected ways during this Advent season and we feel confused, anxious, frightened, or we find ourselves grasping for hope — let us be ready to ask God to just hand us the tomato soup or whatever we may need to be at ease and to be faith-filled as we live into this liminality – for God is already here among us.