Threshold Experiences

Joanne Dehmer SSND

Once again as 2015 began, there was much written and spoken about New Year resolutions and all the desires people hold for change in their lives, in the life of one they love or in the world in need of change. This same kind of desire also happens at a significant birthday or at the time of retirement or any other event that causes us to review our life. More often than perhaps we want to admit, our resolutions become simply plans failed or forgotten. There are other times when we are challenged with circumstances beyond our control and we find ourselves in an unclear and uncertain place. Whether we choose change or it chooses us, these threshold experiences can confront us to our core. John O’Donohue says it clearly, “To acknowledge and cross a new threshold is always a challenge. It demands courage and also a sense of trust in whatever is emerging. This becomes essential when a threshold opens suddenly in front of you, one for which you had no preparation. This could be illness, suffering, or loss. Because we are so engaged with the world we usually forget how fragile life can be and how vulnerable we always are. It takes only a couple of seconds for a life to change irreversibly. Suddenly you stand on completely strange ground and a new course of life has to be embraced. Especially at such times we desperately need blessing and protection.”

Threshold experiences beckon us to trust and to trust deeply. We are leaving the familiar, the comfort places and crossing into something new. The temptation may be to go back, to leave this liminal space, this ambiguous time and place and return to the comfort of what we once knew. It is essential to remember we are not alone, that God is in our midst and we have been given guides and inner strength to which we can summon. In the words of Carl Jung, “Bidden or unbidden, God is present.”

As I look back at my own life, I recognize the times when I dared to make changes that would significantly affect my future. At other times change came unannounced and not of my choosing. I grew in my understanding that I was not alone and was given the strength and courage I needed for the time. God was present in many forms and means and I emerged from the depth of these experiences a deeper and more compassionate person. Now as I look to what threshold I may be invited to enter today or as I contemplate the unknown possibilities I may face in the days ahead, I commit to remember these threshold experiences and trust the same grace will be given as was given before.

Looking back at your life you may ask yourself, “When there was a time of change in my life, what did I learn from risking to say yes to the threshold I was crossing?” “What have I learned about myself in the midst of change?” “Who or what inner or outer guides were present to help light my way through the darkness?” Or you may ask of yourself today, “To what threshold

experience am I being invited to enter at this time of my life?” “What am I asked to let go of to be open to something new in my life?” “Who or what today gives me inspiration and strength to enter into the unknown?” “How is God present in my life in this experience I am presently encountering?”