“There is a traditional saying of ancient wisdom: ‘A threshold is a sacred thing.’ . . . When I visited Japan I experienced the role of the threshold in a very simple daily experience. Before entering the house, the Japanese stand on the lintel in order to remove the shoes worn outside in the street. Upon entering the house, they put on slippers placed inside the door. This forces a very deliberate and conscious way of standing still, even if for only for a moment, in order to show respect for the difference between two spaces, the outer and the inner; the preparation for the encounter with another person, another household.
“This is very similar to the traditional monastic practice of statio, which also pays homage to the threshold moment, and shows reverence for the handling of space and time. The monk or nun enters the church for the saying of the daily offices, but always leaves him- or herself time to stand, to wait, to let go of all the demands of whatever the previous activity had been, with all its concurrent anxieties and expectations. That stillness permits each one to enter into that space kept empty in the heart for the Word of God. By rushing, whether through a sense of duty or obligation, or to save a few extra moments for the task at hand, they may gain something in terms of daily work. What is lost, however, is the attention, the awareness of crossing over into the time and place for opus Dei, the work of God.”
Many years ago when missionaries left their home countries, they were on a ship for weeks (sometimes months!) before they arrived “on the field”. I’m grateful for the relatively quick trip that airplanes provide (and that we can avoid the seasickness), but I find myself craving that “space in between”. I needed a space to exhale before I could inhale again. Esther de Waal writes about this idea from Celtic Christianity in her book, To Pause at the Threshold.
I was so excited to settle into our new home in New Zealand, but the 7 months we spent fundraising and preparing was hard work! My soul desired rest and rejuvenation for myself and for my family before jumping into this new work of growing a small church in the city of Christchurch.
We decided to visit the island of Oahu in Hawaii for a few reasons. It was the perfect threshold for us, it was a good halfway point, and my aunt/uncle/cousin’s family live there! We were able to overcome jet lag and barely experienced any once we arrived in NZ. We also had five days dedicated to connection with each other, with family, and with nature.
We slept a lot, ate some amazing food, swam in the gorgeous ocean waters, saw seals and turtles, and went on a few beautiful hikes! One fantastic part was getting to chat with my aunt, uncle, and cousin who’ve traveled and worked with the church all over Asia. I am so grateful for their wisdom and encouragement.
Ever wonder why songs have “intros”? An intro acts as a threshold; separating two experiences as the space in between, it gets you ready and prepares you, helping you anticipate what is to come. Hawaii was our threshold. And now, Welcome to New Zealand!