By Lee Soo Choo
This is a state most of us would have encountered sometime in our lives, especially during these pandemic days when there are so many uncertainties, so many sudden changes. When we do not know, when we are in the dark, what next?
I found a name for it, it’s called liminality, a transitional in-between space, a threshold, a neither here-nor-there situation, a floating unsettling sensation.
I have experienced several such moments in the past year.
When my niece (I was regarded as her guardian), had her first diagnosis of cancer (a rare type), this liminal cloud started to hover over me. Uncertain of the next course of action and where and how to seek treatment, worries and anxieties crept in. Then after treatment, when she started to develop severe reactions, it was hard to see her suffer, we were uncertain if she would survive, and wondered how we could cope with the pain of impending grief.
Due to her high fever, she was in isolation for 2 days to test for COVID. This was one of those horrible uncertain times when I did not know!
At the same time, my mother was deteriorating at the nursing home, and I could not even hold her hand, as I was NOT allowed to visit due to MCO restrictions. Another painful and horrible time when I did not know!
It certainly was not a nice place to be – a place of not knowing, of zerocontrol, of utter helplessness. An awfully dark and lonely place.
But what helped? It was an image – for me, a picture does paint a thousand words, and much more.
This image was carved into my aching heart during those trying months, and it kept coming back to me. It happened when I warded my mother at the General Hospital in Ipoh in December 2019.
It was 2.30 am in an extremely crowded emergency ward, when suddenly the piercing shrieks of a baby/toddler filled the room. The nurse was trying to get her tiny arm intubated, with papa and nurse holding her down. There were three such screaming sessions, before the nurse finally got the tube in. Then the father, a big burly man, grabbed his daughter and laid her on his breast, her head falling onto his shoulders.
Her sobs slowly subsided as she wrapped her tiny arms round her papa’s neck. And then a sweet quiet peace filled the room! I think the rest of us clapped in our hearts.
This image has since hounded my heart, soul and mind – a big loving PAPA wrapping His beloved in His arms – He who had cringed seeing His own Son suffer, He who fills the void in our hearts. There is nowhere God isn’t. Therefore, we need not fear this liminal space, “for this is the place – the place of our lived experience – where the secret of love is truly revealed” (Fr Philip Carter). He is my Refuge, my Joy, my Peace in my times of unknowing, in liminal space, where transformation takes place if we learn to wait and let Him form us. A friend aptly describes this sacred time as a dance with the unknown, a calling of faith, hope and love.
How many times has God told His people to “remember,” to recall how He has led them and cared for them? A total of 130+36 times (NIV)!
Let’s keep the memories of our treasured moments with God etched in our hearts, because these memories will one day sustain us during trying times, times when we do not know.
So, IT IS OK,
WHEN WE DO NOT KNOW, PAPA KNOWS and that is enough for me!