Seeing people on the threshold of something new can be an exciting place to be – unless you wish it was you I guess. I usually manage to enjoy attending other people’s weddings, even though there is sometimes a tinge of envy. Baby showers and scans and all are also quite liminal times on the edge of a whole new experience, and although I could do without the detailed descriptions of labour, it feels important to share the moment with someone about to enter parenthood. Things will never be the same again.
Sometimes, being a lecturer feels like you’re at the doorway for students, ushering them on to new understanding and a professional career. Some of our students finish the course and have truly had a life-changing experience. We had some training about threshold concepts at work, and how grasping certain concepts opens a gateway to a whole new phase of learning. The theory was interesting, and we managed to consider a range of key points within the learning we want to encourage on our course, including grasping how to structure an essay, and how to use research literature. Giving tutorials to students who are resitting certain assignments at the moment seems a key second chance at helping them to understand and move on. Something like the difference between quantitative and qualitative research is so fundamental to our research methods courses and yet I keep meeting students who haven’t quite got it, even if they pretend they have. Mimicking knowledge is part of what happens when students fail to cross a threshold but don’t want to let on.
‘Faking it’ in church is another issue I feel strongly about. I think some church-goers maybe play along with worship, particularly if there is an expectation for joyful exuberance or anything that might be considered whipping up a response. Sometimes we feel fully part of what is going on, but other times we maybe feel on the fringes, on the threshold perhaps, and less spiritual or less worthy than other people. Perhaps we hover at the back, or choose to sit down rather than standing and singing. I don’t think God is fooled by pretence, and I’d rather be real about where I am.
Some of the Psalms in the Bible are written by the sons of Korah. They get a mention elsewhere in the Bible where some of them are given the job of being gatekeepers in the tent of meeting, the house of the Lord. So some of the family are given the task of being like a caretaker, guarding the tent, keeping the keys and looking after the food and furnishings. Not a glamorous job. Others of them are musicians, they get to lead the praise and worship and even write songs. I wonder if there was much envy between the brothers Korah. Anyway, in Psalm 84 the doorkeepers get a mention. They write:
They stress the importance of being in the right place, even if you’re on the edge. And actually I think being a doorkeeper can be an important role. Welcoming in someone else who is uncertain might make a big difference for them. Noticing someone who is upset and leaves may also be an important thing. Sharing with others’ joys and sorrows, even from the edge is still participation. You may even get the chance to help someone making a transition from outside to inside. From hesitance to acceptance. From darkness to light. Sometimes the edge is the right place to be.
A year or so back I wrote my own song about just this theme. Here it is:
(Chorus) I am a doorkeeper, I watch people come and go
Entering with new hope, leaving with old dreams
Living the life or watching the show
There are days when I can sing for joy
Other days I sit and stare at the floor
Hearing people praise your name
Knowing you are worthy of much more
Celebrating as new life begins
Tears when someone goes to be with you
Doubts and questions whether I fit in
Still I know I have a job to do
Welcoming the lost sheep that returns
Noticing the one who just can’t stay
Hearing more of you and all you’ve done
Taking time to learn and watch and pray
Sing a new song in the house of God
Serve a new friend who is passing through
I would rather be a doorkeeper
Than be anywhere else without you.