Retreat 2

A Threshold Moment

A First Reflection

Take a few moments to transition into retreat. Remember to create some physical space that feels inviting to you and helps you breathe more deeply. You may want to take a moment to listen to some music from beneath the Music and More button or to some of your own music. Go for a walk. Look at the world around you. Begin to slow your pace. Then sit with this prayer for a few moments:

 

Jesus the Door,

the Word,

the Welcome,

soften my step,

and still my mind.

May Your Presence

of peace be over me.

Peace be here;

my heart is open.

“When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?”

— Psalm 11:3

Standing on a Threshold

There were many shocking moments in March of 2020. First came the news that the NBA had suspended its season. Then Major League Baseball postponed opening day. Colleges and universities began sending students home; and churches canceled services for Sunday.

 

Maybe it was the moment Disney dimmed its lights that we sensed we were in uncharted waters. Or maybe it was the moment the stock market came crashing down. It’s hard to know exactly which catastrophic event marked the moment we realized that the world as we knew it was gone and the future was entirely uncertain.

 

There is a word in spiritual formation language that describes the season we find ourselves in today: threshold. When you’re standing on a threshold, the past is gone and the future is not yet certain.

 

In a physical sense, we cross many thresholds each day without noticing it. Often there is a piece of wood or metal across the floor in a doorway that leads from one room to another. That’s the threshold. Think of it this way: a threshold moment or season is when we have left one room, but we have not yet entered another. We are held in the time or space in between.

 

In the Christian life, we often pass through many threshold moments or seasons as God leads us from one thing to another, whether it be a new job, a new relationship or a new calling. For every new room we step into, however, there is a familiar room we’ve left behind. That makes threshold moments full of every kind of emotion. We travel the distance between gratitude and grief, passing through a spectrum of emotion in the process, sometimes in the same hour or moment. We’ll talk more about the distance between gratitude and grief in the next retreat.

 

If you were to physically stand on the threshold of a door right now, especially if it were a raised piece of wood or a hard piece of metal, you might notice some things in your body. First, you might feel a sense of disequilibrium. In order to keep your balance, you would need to rely upon your core. After a few moments, you might get restless. You might think, “I really want to be in one room or the other, not in this in-between space. I want to either go back where I came from or move forward into the next room.”

That’s how many of us have felt during this time of pandemic. Disoriented; full of every kind of emotion; a little off-balance; wanting to go back to the world as it was, or ready to move on to the new normal, although the new abnormal​ may prove to be a more accurate descriptor. Then, in the midst of the pandemic and as we write this reflection, we find ourselves standing on yet another threshold: a threshold of social change.

 

Swelling protests in the streets indicate that we (at least many of us) have left one room: the world as it was, full of injustice, abuse and death. We have had enough. Now we are waiting for the next room to open up before us. What will the future look like? We are praying for a world marked by justice, peace and life. ​ We are demanding that the next room be a space where every person, regardless of race or ethnicity, has ample room to breathe. In the meantime, we plant our feet firmly on this threshold and wait. By the time you read this reflection, other thresholds may have materialized beneath our feet as well.

 

We live in a time of significant disorientation and change, but it is not unprecedented. There are many who have gone before us on this journey.

Scripture is replete with examples of threshold moments, and one of the most dramatic and instructive “moments” lasted 40 years! Imagine the Israelites standing on the banks of the Red Sea, eyes and mouths wide open, shocked at what they had just witnessed. Walls of water had just swallowed Pharaoh and his army. At the same time, those waves had washed away the world as the Israelites had known it for 400 years. The past was gone, and the future was entirely uncertain.

 

The Israelites must have been disoriented and filled with every kind of emotion. They were standing on a threshold, and if they were ever to regain their balance, they would need a strong core. Little did they know, it would take four decades of working on that core in the wilderness before they were ready to step into the next room. The distance from Mt. Sinai to the edge of the Promised Land could have been covered in just 11 days (Deuteronomy 1:2-3). But traveling the distance between their old identity as slaves and their new identity as God’s chosen people would take an entire generation.

Look back over your life lately. Without judging yourself, simply notice:

When have you felt most like a deeply-loved child of God?

When have you felt most like a tired and weary slave?

What encouragement​ might the Father have for you in this moment?

The years in the wilderness were a difficult but important time for the Israelites. It was in the wilderness that God began to form them into His people, changing them from a loose consortium of enslaved tribes into a nation that would represent him to the world, changing not only their laws and behavior, but their character and spirit. It has been well said, it only took one day for God to get Israel out of Egypt, but it took 40 years to get Egypt out of Israel. For 40 years, God was working on their core.

 

Our Father knows we are anxious to get to the next stage of this journey. We are a restless people, ready to step into the next room. He is filled with compassion and hears our cry. He also knows, however, that important transformation occurs in our souls when the world has been washed away and we’re left to wander through the wilderness with Him.

 

In the wilderness, we are entirely dependent upon His protection, direction and provision. That dependence is essential in our formation. In the wilderness, God continues the gentle work of uprooting the slanderous seed that was tossed into our souls in an ancient garden: God is not good and cannot be trusted. Before we can learn who we really are, we have to learn who He really is, because it’s His image that is imprinted within our souls.

 

Is God good, and can we really trust Him?

 

That’s the ancient question on which our entire existence depends. There’s one sure way to find the answer: Wander with Him through the wilderness and see.

 

One last word on thresholds. In earthquake country, when the ground shakes beneath us, we’re instructed to stand on the threshold of a door. Like the Israelites on their last night in Egypt, the doorpost above our heads becomes part of our protection. In this case, we stand on the threshold beneath the doorpost, should the house come crashing down.

 

When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do? Stand on the threshold. Wait and watch​ from the “space-in-between.” Take shelter in Jesus, who not only is the Doorpost above our head, but also the True Foundation beneath our feet. The wilderness is the space and time in our lives where God scrapes the True Foundation. He removes all that is not of Jesus, and begins to build again.

Reflect for a moment.

Standing on a threshold gives us the opportunity to consider what we would like to leave behind before we step into the next room. As you examine your own life in this season, what do you hope to leave behind?

If you’ve ever worked on your core muscles, you understand the importance of proper breathing. The following video is designed to help us breathe more deeply in God’s presence and regain our balance by working on our core.

For Reflection and/or Journaling

I belong to you

What did you notice while doing the practice? Perhaps you were distracted or felt awkward doing it. Perhaps it helped you loosen your shoulders and relax. If you are keeping a journal, write down these observations.

If you would like to write your own breath prayer. Here is one approach:

 

1) ​ Take a moment to discern the name of God that you are most drawn to in this season.

2) ​ Now discern your current need or desire before God. How would you answer the question from Jesus, “What do you want me to do for you?”

3) ​ Now combine the name of God that you are drawn to with the need or desire that you named. Write a prayer that you can breathe in God’s presence in the days ahead.

 

 

Some breath prayers we have practiced:

 

Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.

 

Abba, I belong to you.

 

Kind and gentle Jesus, thank you for your rest.

 

If you would like to learn more about breath prayer, here is an article from Christianity Today

End this first section of retreat by reflecting upon these words from To Bless the Space Between Us, by John O’Donohue.

At any time you can ask yourself:
At which threshold am I now standing?
At this time in my life, what am I leaving?
Where am I about to enter?
A threshold is not a simple boundary;
it is a frontier
that divides two different territories,
rhythms, and atmospheres.
It is wise in your own life
to be able to recognize and acknowledge
the key thresholds;
to take your time;
to feel all the varieties of presence
that accrue there;
to listen inward
with complete attention
until you hear
the inner voice
calling you
forward:
“The time has come to cross.”

What have you heard from “the inner voice” today, during this retreat?

An Invitation

For the next few days, practice pausing throughout the day to take a few deep breaths in God’s presence. Think of Daniel breathing with his son, Henry. If you have identified a breath prayer, take a moment to breathe that prayer while resting against your Father in heaven.

Questions for Reflection and/or Journaling ​

Before you begin engaging with words, take time to continue resting in the warm welcome of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Be reminded that God sees you as you are and welcomes you as His deeply-loved child. Words are not needed, but if it is helpful, you might simply say, “Lord, here I am.” ​

 

The questions below are offered to help facilitate our inner conversation with the Father. In that matter, however, we always defer to the Spirit’s leading. Notice which questions you are drawn to, and move towards them. As best you can, engage with the questions without judging yourself or raking yourself over any coals. Simply notice and name what stirs within you. Be mindful that you are sitting beneath the kind and compassionate gaze of our loving God.

 

Return to the words of Jesus from Matthew 6:5-8. He is offering us a soft cloth to polish the mirror of our prayer experience so that it might more accurately reflect the reality of who God is. What does your current experience of prayer reveal about your most deeply-held beliefs about God? Take some time to linger with this question. ​

 

Bring those beliefs to the Father. Hold them up in the light of His love. Ask Him for the grace to let go of whatever does not accurately reflect His image. Ask Him to begin to reveal to you the deeper reality of who He is. Have confidence that this is a prayer our Father is glad to respond to, although His response may be gentle and gradual, unfolding over time.

 

 

An Invitation

We invite you to take a few moments each day to enter into your inner room with God, take a few deep breaths and sit with Him in silence. If you need words, you might simply say, “Lord, Here I am.” Be assured: “He will rise up to show you compassion,” (Isaiah 30:18).

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