Ours is a dog-neighbourhood. We have two, our neighbour has one, as do the people behind him and the ones beside them.
So, I was surprised to see a black cat on our back fence last week. I was sipping coffee and reading a book when its movement caught my attention.
The image of it stalking the length of our fence before dropping into the yard behind us has stayed with me. I can’t help but admire its audacity.
Advent invites us to live in liminal space, in between a future promise and the current reality. Richard Rohr asserts that ‘we have to allow ourselves to be drawn into sacred space, into liminality (because) all transformation takes place here.’
The black cat on our fence was inhabiting liminal space. She knew the dangers, but did not let fear divert her. As she walked, she was paying attention, using her finely attuned senses to guide her. And she kept on-track, navigating her way along our fence towards whatever hope or promise lured her through dog-land.
It isn’t easy to live in liminal space and there is much to divert our intention to do so, especially in these weeks before Christmas, but Advent calls us to ‘allow ourselves to be drawn out of “business as usual” and remain patiently on the “threshold” (limen, in Latin) where we are betwixt and between the familiar and the completely unknown’ (Richard Rohr).
This is the space into which God comes.
Then who will we be?
This is the last line in a recent article, Nauru: how long can we keep lying to ourselves, written by Waleed Aly and published in The Age. Aly uncovers the fabric of lies that have been told and legislated by successive governments to justify current asylum seeker policy, and questions how long they can be sustained. He concludes with this:
‘At some point, the clock runs out. And on that day, maybe the alarm will sound on these mighty fictions that have been sustaining us. Then who will we be?’
This last question has struck a chord with me in a way that finds application beyond this country’s inhumane asylum seeker policy. Today is Ash Wednesday, which begins a period of preparation and discipline for the Christian church. It reflects on the life and ministry of Jesus and calls upon Christians to renew their commitment to Christian discipleship.
‘Then who will we be’ is a searching question to carry into Lent. It invites us to examine our decisions, our actions and our beliefs, every one of which is forming and transforming us.
Every ‘yes’ to any given thing sets us on a path that moves towards one thing and away from something else. For example, our assent to ‘illegal immigrants’ and ‘stop the boats’ in Australia has taken this country down the path towards moral bankruptcy.
Similarly, and at a personal level, the same is true. When we say ‘yes’ to one thing, we say ‘no’ to another and it changes us, for good or for ill. Lent is the season to pay attention to the paths we’re travelling.
I enter Lent this year pondering on Waleed Aly’s question, ‘then who will we be’.
I invite you to join me.