Thresholds by John O’Donohue

Mar 23, 2024

As I shared in my last post, I feel I am standing at the threshold of a new season with all its complex feelings and emotions as I venture into the unknown. During yesterday’s virtual post-graduate spiritual direction class retreat, one of the leaders shared this lovely poem, which spoke to my experience. I thought I’d share it with you before continuing my series on discernment.

A threshold is not a simple boundary;

it is a frontier that divides two different territories, rhythms and atmospheres.

Indeed, it is a lovely testimony to the fullness and integrity of an experience

or a stage of life that it intensifies towards the end into a real frontier

that cannot be crossed without the heart being passionately engaged and woken up.

At this threshold a great complexity of emotion comes alive:

confusion, fear, excitement, sadness, hope.

This is one reason why such vital crossings were always clothed in ritual.

It is wise in your own life to be able to recognize and acknowledge the key thresholds:

to take your time, to feel all the varieties of presence that accrue there,

to listen inwards with complete attention  until you hear the inner voice calling you forward.

The time has come to cross.

To acknowledge and cross a new threshold is always a challenge.

It demands courage and also a sense of trust in whatever is emerging.

This becomes essential when a threshold opens suddenly in front of you,
one for which you had no preparation.

This could be illness, suffering or loss.

Because we are so engaged with the world,

we usually forget how fragile life can be and how vulnerable we always are.

It takes only a couple of seconds for a life to change irreversibly.

Suddenly you stand on completely strange ground
and a new course of life has to be embraced.

Especially at such times we desperately need blessing and protection.

You look back at the life you have lived up to a few hours before,

and it suddenly seems so far away.

Think for a moment how, across the world, someone’s life has just changed –

irrevocably, permanently, and not necessarily for the better –

and everything that was once so steady, so reliable, must now find a new way of unfolding.

Though we know one another’s names and recognize one another’s faces,

we never know what destiny shapes each life.

The script of individual destiny is secret;

it is hidden behind and beneath the sequence of happenings

that is continually unfolding for us.

Each life is a mystery that is never finally available to the mind’s light or questions.

That we are here is a huge affirmation; somehow life needed us and wanted us to be.

To sense and trust this primeval acceptance can open a vast spring of trust within the heart.

It can free us into a natural courage that casts out fear and opens up our lives

to become voyages of discovery, creativity, and compassion.

No threshold need be a threat, but rather an invitation and a promise.

Whatever comes, the great sacrament of life will remain faithful to us,

blessing us always with visible signs of invisible grace.

We merely need to trust

~ John O’Donohue, “Benedictus” (“To Bless The Space Between Us” in the U.S.)