*liminal: occupying a position at, or on both sides of, a boundary or threshold*

We began this Liminal Advent by invoking questions; questions which may never have answers.

We then confessed that we don’t have it all together; chaos, disorder, and imperfection are our constant companions.

Then we affirmed that we need each other; all the each others.

Now we will close by getting real about our inner pain. Pain of the emotional and psychological kind.

The neurobiological process that results in feeling this kind of pain has always been a great mystery to me. A torn ligament or bruised finger or broken bone cause pain. That’s pain I can understand. But to have this pain on the inside—pain that stems from emotions and psyche—which has real quantifiable results in my physical body, is strange.

Why would something that doesn’t physically touch me cause pain?



Let’s look at the source of this pain.

The pain we have comes from diverse places and circumstances, and I will not try to mention them all. Yet it does seem that most pain gets its genesis from a couple broad instances. Namely, separation and rejection. I know there are other causes as well, but these two general categories cover a lot of our pain.

Pain is caused when we are separated from family or friends or others either by death, major illness or disease, accident, relational issues, relocation.

Pain is also caused when we are rejected by family, friends, coworkers, organizations, institutions, social groups.

A bruise heals. Ligaments can be repaired. Bones can be mended. Eventually, with most of these types of conditions, the pain stops.

Not so with separation and rejection. Often these types of pain last our entire lives.

Advent is a highly appropriate time to remember our pain and to share it.

But wait, someone might share their pain with me?

We might try.

See, if we dare to remember our pain, we could be overwhelmed if we try to endure it alone. But in order to share it, we’d need someone who is willing to share our remembrance of the pain.

And this brings up a point about compassion.



Many of us have learned that the word compassion comes from two ancient language words that when put together mean to “suffer with.” And we then wonder just how we are to suffer with someone else, through their pain. After all, how can I suffer the pain that only someone else uniquely experiences.

Maybe, if we considered that their pain likely comes from separation or rejection—just like most of our pain—then we could empathize just a little bit.

But more importantly, simply being present to listen to someone process their pain is the most compassionate thing one human being can do for another.

More of us are outsiders than we might think. Consider yourself. Where have you been separated or rejected? Where are these great rifts in your story? The pain you have right now, if you follow it down to the root, what will you find?

A Liminal Advent doesn’t allow me to glibly declare that after a certain amount of waiting God will come into our pain and heal it all.

Profound pain that comes from separation and rejection can’t be so easily extinguished. And a god who would act like some indiscriminate divine magician wouldn’t be worth my time and energy.

Instead, I think the closing of Advent reveals a God who comes to be with us in our pain. A God, named Jesus, who offers compassion, truly suffering with us.

When we begin to share all our pain with another listening individual, we’ll see Jesus.


This post is Part 4 and the conclusion of the series “A Liminal Advent.” Links below will be live when the parts are published.

Invocation: Questions

Confession: We Don’t Have Our Stuff Together

Affirmation: Togetherness

Benediction: All Our Pain



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