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

When we give ourselves the freedom to question during a liminal Advent, without expecting ready and complete answers, we may learn that our house isn’t entirely in order. But are we brave enough to confess such a thing?

I’ve noticed that it seems to be the people who are on the fringes of institutions, groups, or communities that are most honest in this regard.

The religious outsiders, or those not considered part of polite society, or persons on the edges of socio-political and socio-economic power centers tend to admit this area of vulnerability.

We know we don’t have a handle on most things. We admit we have lots of junk to work on. We confess we don’t have our stuff together.



Observing a liminal Advent means that we cannot possibly begin to be ready for the arrival of something new and unexpected unless we are able to honestly confess our real imperfections and disorder.

To confess we aren’t yet ready is not to quickly acknowledge the reality and then sweep it under the rug. Authentic confession knows there is no quick fix, there is no instant transformation, there is no absolute miracle just around the corner.

Instead, the transformation comes slowly and painfully in each moment of confession, each day of vulnerability, each season of imperfection.

There is an apt metaphor in the modern Western world which the title of this post likely reminds us of: we “don’t have our shit together.”

That is not a needless crassness, nor an attempt to stir up trouble. It is instead a ready admission that the disorder, imperfection, and chaos in our lives feels like tons of shit. And yet …

I’ve heard it said that the difference between shit and manure is a matter of perspective.

To call something “manure” and to call it “shit” doesn’t change the object itself. Both are labels for a pile of literal and metaphorical dung. What is different is the lens through which we view the dung heap.

While “shit” characterizes the mess as not worth investment, “manure” suggests that the mess is fertile ground for growth.

What if we looked at the stuff of chaos, disorder, and imperfection in our lives as manure instead of shit? What if I allowed myself to consider such potential during this liminal Advent?

Then I might see all my mistakes, all my grief, all my missed opportunities, all my shame as things which can grow me more into my authentic self. The stuff of my past becomes the catalyst for my more fertile future.

And the focus on something more, something of growth, something elevated in the future is quite appropriate during this season. If you participate in a faith community that observes Advent, you likely have heard, or will hear, something about getting ready for the coming king. And if your holiday season observance is not connected to a religious tradition, you still are looking forward to the exchange of gifts, or time with loved ones, for which you are preparing in special ways.

I pray a prayer regularly with my family and with my community. It talks of a kingdom coming to where we are. If that kingdom is marked by a peace and a love we have yet to experience with regularity, then I’m all for it. What’s more: such an audacious notion of power would have to come to us, for our human history has proven we could never make it to wherever a reality is commonplace.

After all, we don’t have our shit—or possibly manure—together.

So, I confess that my past is riddled with mistakes, and tons of sin, and missed chances, and royal screw-ups. I confess that I am a disordered and chaotic mess.

But in that confession, I intend to use my individual junk as fertilizer for something better right now and in the days ahead.


This post is Part 2 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 the Pain



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