On the threshold

I’m a dweller on the threshold and I’m waiting at the door
And I’m standing in the darkness – I don’t want to wait no more

I have seen without perceivingI have been another man
Let me pierce the realm of glamour so I know just what I am

I’m a dweller on the threshold and I’m waiting at the door
And I’m standing in the darkness – I don’t want to wait no more

Feel the angel of the present in the mighty crystal fire
Lift me up, consume my darkness, let me travel even higher

I’m a dweller on the threshold and I’m waiting at the door
And I’m standing in the darkness – I don’t want to wait no more

I’m gonna turn and face the music, the music of the spheres,
Lift me up consume my darkness when the midnight disappears

I will walk out of the darkness and I’ll walk into the light
And I’ll sing the song of ages and the dawn will end the night

I’m a dweller on the threshold and I’m waiting at the door
And I’m standing in the darkness – I don’t want to wait no more

Van Morrison ‘Dweller on the Threshold’

Its a ‘threshold’ time of year: the in-between as we count down the last fading days of the old year and open up white, blank calendars and diaries for the brand new one.  It feels as if we are crossing over, leaving one season and starting afresh… and perhaps in some ways we are.  Most people love the thought of a new start, a chance to do better, the opportunity to make resolutions and set goals, plan holidays. Only the more cynical among us seem to know that the same failures and mistakes lie ahead in 2011 if we carry the baggage of 2010 with us.

I usually love New Year – filling in the Year Planner, manufacturing a new routine and timetable – but it is hard for me to feel optimistic about 2011 with so much uncertainty in our family: we cannot see more than a few weeks ahead and things could change at any time. Actually life is always like that, its just that we are more painfully accustomed to it, being daily faced with the slide downhill towards death, grabbing for grace just to survive NOW.  I suppose that’s why James says, in no uncertain terms:

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.  James 4v13-17.

So on one hand we are warned not to be presumptuous in our planning but then on the other hand that last little comment at the end doesn’t let us swing too far the other way: it is just as important not to be passive and irresponsible or neglect to follow up on those good prompts and desires.  So we’d better bear that in mind when deciding on our new year’s resolutions this weekend!

But of course, we can make resolutions any time at all, not just when all the numbers change! One of the most wonderful things about knowing Jesus is the ability to have a new start every single morning (Lamentations 3v23). I have often asked Him if I can stand with my back to the Door (‘I am the Door for the sheep’  John 10v7) and imagined myself leaning back into Him while He is putting all my sins behind His back (Isaiah 38v17), locking the door and throwing away the key (Psalm 103v12) 🙂 We are free from guilt and shame – the Lord has forgiven the sins we have not even committed yet!  There is nothing like that ‘clean, known and loved’ feeling – and it doesn’t come through our own efforts at changing, but only through His grace and ongoing work in us.

So a threshold is a line to be crossed, yes – an exit and an entry point.  But in this song Van Morrison talks about being someone who dwells in that in-between place.  He expresses deep longing to cross over from darkness to light – the final crossover through death to life and glory – along with the truth that we are all waiting in the shadow all our lives. Somehow here on earth –  straining on tiptoe to glimpse heaven and ‘pierce the realm of glamour’ while living with the ‘angel of the present’ – we are all threshold dwellers in a place of tension. We live with what is and what is to come, knowing ‘only in part’ now, but then ‘knowing fully even as I am fully known’ (1 Corinthians 13v12).

Richard Rohr puts it like this:  ‘The threshold is between the house and the outside.  We live on the boundary, on the narrow road that leads to life (Matthew 7v13-14), in between two undeniable truths… because faith is to live and hold onto the paradox that people are at the same time very good and very sinful.

Those with room for those two seemingly contradictory truths to co-exist are the ones who can recognise the kingdom of God. The absurdity of human reality will not shock them: they’ve already faced it inside themselves. The enemy is not ‘out there’, the enemy is us.  And when they see the paradox they stop fighting the world – they stop hating and avoiding the world.  They’re free to live that threshold existence that we call the Kingdom.

Can you live in that in-between? To care yet not care at all? Those who can will be free to pass through because they don’t have any turf  – whether possessions, identity, reputation or self-image – to protect or maintain.  The threshold experience is always getting slammed in the face – with paradox.

I believe we are all called to ‘stand in-between’ – for the sake of others: a Biblical word for it is ‘intercession’.  Jesus ‘made intercession’ for us (Isaiah 53v12) – a verb, an action, not just a form of prayer.  We are priests for those around us, standing between heaven and earth, representing God to people and people to God, carrying the names on our hearts and shoulders.  Or another helpful image is the ‘gatekeeper’ role model – guarding that in-between space, letting people in and keeping enemies out.  We are bridges for others to walk over, between the kingdoms of darkness and light.

So here at the threshold of the year, in the darkness of the winter nights longing for the sunlight and warmth to return, let’s be willing to be stretched a bit more and make some good decisions about staying on the narrow path that leads to life.  Let’s yearn, like Van Morrison, for the ‘music of the spheres’ and the ‘song of ages’ but also have the capacity to hold the paradox of good and evil, suffering and deliverance, joy and sorrow, poverty and riches that is all around us right now, while remaining completely free, ‘children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, shining like stars in the universe, holding out the word of life’ Philippians 2v15-16.

Darkness/light, present/future, pain/joy, love/sorrow, laughter/tears, lost/found, saint/sinner, parent/child, in/out, suffering/glory, death/life…? It is not either/or, it is definitely both/and!  Happy NewYear!

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About Sally Ann

True-story teller - words and pictures
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