I’m drawn to them, those places and images that invite a going through or coming toward. They are passageways, entry and exit points from what has been to what will be. Thresholds and more, offering promise and prompting thanksgiving. Call it a professional hazard of one who has been present as folks unite to cross a threshold, welcome a new beginning, or share a “farewell” and “see you later”. To be present at the passageway times of life – birth, marriage, death – is sacred work. It’s also humbling work, peeking into the intimacy of a family system and coming to share a presence and a word.
These passageways crop up in life, in nature, in travel and in the mundane. It seems we are always coming and going, sometimes with a lack of awareness and abandon that approaches the cliffs in danger; other times in a measured gait that belies our reluctance to enter the work at all.
“The work” – an interesting naming for what happens in the threshold space. Some passageways are longer than others. Some require a solemn respite of a stay, others a fleeting flurry of crossing over. Yet “the work” of the threshold happens nonetheless. Whether long or short we emerge different from what we entered. Older, wiser, sadder, gladder – changed in some way for having crawled, walked, run or leapt across. Not the same, no. For in having done “the work” we will have in some way assimilated the past we leave with the present we join.
These past months of unending pandemic have felt like a lengthy passageway. It was unwelcome when it showed up. It’s no more welcome today, though it shows few signs of disappearing. Some were quick to enter this passageway and, lacking the tools or help to navigate it, they left us too soon. Others continue to deny its presence, downplay, and avoid any measures that might mitigate the journey. We fooled ourselves once into thinking we had finished with it, only to look round the bend and find it offers another detour. How many more detours will there be?
I chafe at some of the terms it has introduced: “pivot”, “new normal”, “social distance”, “mandate”, “breakthrough”. Such functional language offers the illusion of control. Where, I would ask, have we demonstrated control? We are dwelling in a liminal space, crossing a threshold the length of which we do not comprehend, toward a tomorrow we yearn to see. The journey is long, hard and circuitous. Some days it feels like we are walking blind, others with assurance, often out of step with those we walk beside. Yet, God walks with us.
This passageway has not treated it’s sojourners equally. It has illuminated life’s inequities, injustices, prejudices, and heroes. It’s navigation is exhausting, confusing, and enduring. I take it back – I am not drawn to this passageway! I’d like it to go. Yet if and when it does, I know it will leave scars. Reminders etched in hearts and lives, communities and families, congregations and companies will go with us from this passage, whenever and however we exit. Until then, we go on.