After five weeks of questions and wrestling, we switched gears on Sunday and had testimonies from five people about their faith–what they believe, what they know for sure, where they stake their hope. The following is a reflection from Abbie Watters. Enjoy.
“How’s your soul?” Sarah asked one day.
I was momentarily taken aback because I hadn’t really thought about it. Then I answered, “I’m really happy. Satisfied. Content. It is well with my soul.”
It came as a bit of a surprise to me. You see, I’ve spent my whole life moving from liminal space to liminal space. You know what liminal space is – it’s the feeling you have when you have finished one phase of your life, but you aren’t ready or able to move to the next phase yet. Think of it as a doorway – you’ve left the room you were in, but you haven’t really entered the next room. Sometimes we get caught there – in liminal space – and we can’t go back but we can’t go forward either.
Possibly my continual feeling of search for liminal space had to do with the way I was raised. We lived in 9 houses in 7 towns/cities before I graduated from high school. I never could get too attached to any place, or to any group of people other than my family, because I knew we would be moving pretty soon.
After I met and married Al, the pattern continued, since he was in the Air Force, and there was always another assignment in the future – probably no more than 3 years away. So even the rooms in my life took on some of the aspects of the doorways in and out – liminal space.
I certainly don’t resent the liminal space of my life. There are those who say you never learn anything unless you are in liminal space. Sometimes the lessons were easy and sometimes they were hard, but I was learning all the while.
And then both Al and I retired, and I got our parents buried and our children married, and we looked at each other and said, “Whew, what do we want to do with the rest of our lives, and where do we want to do it?”
We knew we didn’t want to live where there were hot summers or where there were cold, snowy winters, so we decided on the Pacific Northwest. In 2009, we spent several weeks traveling around Washington and Oregon looking for a great place to live – beautiful scenery, temperate climate, with the services we might need from the military, and a great retirement community. We settled on Franke Tobey Jones here in Tacoma, and went home to Dallas to sell the house.
Then we entered the most difficult liminal space of my life. For three years we sat in a house that we were trying to sell – with all the attendant hope and despair – and waited. We had told our church, and our friends, and our family of our plans, and we were ready to leave in a month or so – as soon as the house sold. But no buyers came forward. We detached from activities and friends – we were adrift – we were lost in liminal space.
Fortunately, during that time, I was able to connect with some really good friends virtually. They lived on the internet, so I knew I wouldn’t lose them when we relocated. Some I’ve met in real life, and some stay where I found them in virtual space – but that doesn’t mean they aren’t as important to me as flesh and blood people whom I see every day. Many of them are pastors. Most of them are Presbyterians. Sarah was one of them – even in 2009, three years before we met in person.
One of the most important things I learned during those three years was the importance of Centering Prayer. Some people call it meditation, or mindfulness, but I know it as prayer. I still practice it every day. It’s a time set aside to let God work in me. It’s a time spent in silence. It’s a time spent in contemplation. It’s not a time for asking God for help for me or others. It’s not even a time for praising God. There are no words involved. If thoughts come into my head, I’ve learned to just let them go. And somewhere in the silence, God works through my problems, takes my worries and replaces them with contentment.
It sounds terribly cliché, but perhaps we use the clichés because they are true. I’ve learned “It’s not up to me.” I can say “It is what it is.” I truly “Let go and let God.”
So now, in this beautiful, green leafy world, watched over by Mt. Rainier, and tempered by Puget Sound, I repeat, “it is well with my soul.”