If you are neither a French major nor a morning person, you are going to have to bear with me. But if you are, then you will love, like I do, the word “crépuscule”. It’s one of my very favorite words, English or French, and it begs to roll off the tongue like musical notes off a composer’s page, even without definition. “Crepuscule” is that lilting, mysterious light that quietly opens the morning sky before the sun ever rises. It is that time between the deepest, black of the night, and the awakening of the new day. Light before light…twilight. The time between. For me, it is a very holy time, when God is deeply present.
Today, I marvel at the hushed sky that gently unveils itself over the water. Soon the sun’s fiery rays will pierce the heavy, rich glow that hangs over the horizon. And morning will come. And the time in-between will disappear.
What is so special about this time, that sets itself apart from the rest of the day – apart from the business and bustle? A capsule of time that hangs in the balance, full of promise. There is a theological word for it – “liminal” – the time in-between. Liminal was never my favorite word. My idea of liminal was waiting, with patience, and perseverance. It seemed to imply that something better was coming … like finally completing a degree, or being promoted, or getting married, or having a baby, or realizing a dream, or getting a well-deserved vacation, or retirement… but our part was to work hard and endure. Liminal described the “big thing” out there that was so imperceptibly slow at arriving, but for which we gave everything.
As Christians, we are liminal people. We live between the times. Between the time that Jesus came and the time that He will come again. Between the time God made promises and the time they will be fulfilled. Between this world and the world to come. These are often hard times. Often we cannot see God at work in them. We look for miracles, cataclysmic acts of nature, dreams that wake us in the night. But most of days are not like that, as we wait on the promises of God. How lackluster and even lethal our days become, thinking we are only killing time until something better happens to us.
But God tells us something different about these in-between times. It is not just waiting. Something is happening! The Writer of Hebrews says that those who endure these in-between times with faith and perseverance and belief in the promise, will conquer kingdoms, shut the mouths of lions, their weaknesses will be turned to strength and they will become powerful in battle. Some will be jeered, and flogged, tortured and put to death. But they will gain a better resurrection. (Hebrews 11:32-40) Something about these in-between times change us.
My husband told me that liminal has another meaning. “Engaged”. Like the time between a proposal and a marriage . Like hearts actively intertwined together working towards a goal. Like a promise waiting to be lived. What if we believed our indefinite periods of doubt, uncertainty, pain and perseverance where really a time when God is actively engaged in our circumstances, changing us for the coming promise? What if God, who made light to shine in the darkness, made his light shine in our hearts…to give us knowledge of himself? (2 Corinthians 4:6) What if that is God’s activity and what these times are all about? But first we have to walk in them – through them… in the lilting, mysterious Light that comes after the blackest part of the night and before the coming of Day.
These times are hard, but they are holy. They are our crépuscule – beautiful, intangible moments – where the division of heaven and earth are blurred – where God is intertwined with our lives, imparting himself into them. Light before light.
And maybe, just maybe, we are becoming crépuscule also.
“He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn.” Psalm 37:4
“The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day.” Proverbs 4:18
“You are the light of the world.” Matthew 5:14