Thresholds

I realized this morning that I am on a threshold to something as yet unknown. The signs are clear now that I have put them together: I am unsure of the territory ahead; things feel like they are shifting under my feet; I am more engaged in negative thinking—usually I can separate from it easily; I am not sleeping as well as usual; and I feel less sure about myself and my abilities. There is a kind of dis-ease when we in a transition, shedding one identity in favor of a new one.

John O’Donohue, writing in To Bless the Space Between Us, prefers the term threshold to transition in describing this change.  “The word threshold was related to the word thresh, which was the separation of the grain from the husk or straw when oats were flailed. It also includes the notions of entrance, crossing, border, and beginning. To cross a threshold is to leave behind the husk and arrive at the grain.”[1]

This morning I wakened, excited about thresholds and new grain.  Then I thought this: the husk(the current identity) contains and grows the grain(seed of the new). The continuity of this process [which I think constitutes the whole of the spiritual journey as we shed one identity after another that no longer suits or fits who we are becoming] is astounding to me: the new grows in the old until it is ready for harvest, ready to be lived outside the husk, in the open. This process continues, crossing one threshold after another, until we evolve into our created identity, the one we were given at conception, the one that is needed so desperately in the world.

In the Life of the Spirit we are not in charge of this process. We can’t even see the blueprint of our lives that guides the Spirit in this transformation. I don’t think we know how to go from who we are to who we are to become. Unlike the cultural maps which inculcate in us the steps for becoming the highly individualized, successful person we were meant to be[according to the current cultural paradigm], the spiritual maps are arcane, mysterious, and not given out in advance. Our true selves-to-come are known only to God and revealed to us only on a need-to-know basis.

Step by step, with only as much information given for the next step, the deeper and deeper relationship to God unfolds in us without us directing the process or seeing much further ahead than the tip of our nose. Trappist monk Thomas Merton’s prayer describes this so well:

My Lord God,

I have no idea where

I am going. I do not

see the road ahead of me. I

cannot know for certain where it

will end. Nor do I really know

myself, and the fact that I think

that I am following your will does

not mean that I am actually doing

so. But I believe that the desire

to please you does in fact please

you. And I hope that I have that

desire in all that I am doing. I

hope that I will never do anything

apart from that desire. And I

know that if I do this you will lead

me by the right road though I

may know nothing about it.

Therefore I will trust you always

though I may seem to be lost and

in the shadow of death. I will not

fear, for you are ever with me,

and you will never leave me

to face my perils alone.[2]

 

How many thresholds have I crossed in the thirty years since I surrendered my life to Christ? Countless, I think. Just when I get comfortable in myself and where I am, there is another threshold to cross. As I have practiced saying “yes” to God and to the next thing I am called to be or do, saying “yes” becomes the most natural response to the current call. I say “yes” first and then find out what that yes means. This is why the Life of the Spirit is such an adventure.

Thresholds beckon and command us to cross. What threshold is God calling you to cross? What expansion of consciousness or new horizon does Christ want you to entertain?  Are you saying “yes?” or “no way!”  What do you have to lose but the isolation, the negativity, the shallowness, and the disconnectedness of modern life? And your whole life to gain.

 

 

 


[1] John O”Donohue, To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings, Doubleday, New York, 2008, p. 193

[2] Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude

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