by David Hicks, CFDM Faculty
This last fall I heard a new word that I have been thinking a lot about especially going into the new year of 2017. It’s a German word, ‘schwellenangst’. It literally means the fear of crossing a threshold. It is often used simply as the fear of moving into something new. Thresholds are something that a person must step over or across in order to leave one space and go through a doorway into a new space. The phrase “on the cusp” speaks to this as well. It means to be on the threshold of something but not yet stepping through the door into that new space.
As we stand “on the cusp” of 2017 many of us are experiencing some “schwellenangst” about stepping through this doorway. What will the new year hold? How will I handle it? Will it hurt? Maybe the new year will bring the opening of some doors or the closing of others and we are not quite sure how we will discern our own movement through it. Take a moment at the start of this new year to become aware of any sense of fear or anxiety about moving forward. What are you leaving behind? What are you in midst of? What are you sensing lies ahead? Are you at all fearful or anxious about any of this?
In the midst of my own schwellenangst I have been reflecting on the words of Jesus to the church in Philadelphia recorded in Revelation 3:7-8. “What He opens, no one can shut; and what He shuts, no one can open…. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut.”
The thing about doorways is that we generally have a pretty good idea of what lies on the other side. Sometimes, not often, we are caught off guard, like walking into our own surprise party. But most of the time we know, “I am walking through the door from the hallway into my bedroom”, or “I am walking through the door from the parking lot into the grocery store”. If only it were that clear-cut in the spiritual life. We often barely know the space we are in much less the area we will be walking into. And thus the angst. The fear. That anxiety that causes our spirit to tighten up. We don’t know what is on the other side of this doorway. We don’t know if it will help us or harm us. We can’t see in order to prepare ourselves to go through it, so we are afraid.
But the ability to go through these doors is not based on knowing what is on the other side, but on knowing who is on the other side. If these are doors of God’s creation placed before us as invitations then our fear must give way to faith. Faith in the One who has placed it before us and who invites us to step through it with Him into a new space. This new space may be fun and exciting or it may be challenging and difficult. Either way we must go through the open door. After all, when someone is holding a door open for you it’s impolite to make them wait.