Thank You, God, For In-Between Spaces

“I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia… [I was] brought up… [I was] educated strictly in our ancestral law… I persecuted the Way to death…” Thus Paul tells his story.

We are who we are as adults because of who we were as kids. Our habits, attitudes, and beliefs are often rooted in what we learned before we were three, what we heard, what we experienced, the values of those who cared for us. Imperceptibly we were shaped and formed by those who loved us, certainly, but who also were struggling with their own inner issues. Their own demons. We bear each other’s burdens.

Today I sit at meals still struggling to engage, carrying forward attitudes and habits from long ago. And so did Paul. His persecution of the Way was a faithful carrying out of his strict education on the ancestral law.

On the way to Damascus, Paul was leaving Jerusalem behind. He was leaving his native territory. His friends. His memories. The network of relationships, expectations, and boundaries that had defined him. He walked outside what was certain and at the same time Jesus was coming toward Paul. Jesus had summoned Paul mysteriously through Paul’s own plans to persecute the members of the Way. And in the liminal space between Jerusalem and his planned appointment in Damascus, in the place of vulnerability, Paul and Jesus encountered one another. 

The strict adherent to ancestral law discovered that Jesus was, as his followers had claimed, alive. In some way, by hurting his followers he was hurting Jesus. 

Jesus called Paul further into the in-between-space where transformation can be initiated. Paul lost his sight on the outskirts of Damascus, lay in bed for three days in a desert-dependence on the God who had reached out to grasp his heart and then had plunged him through the hands of Ananias into the baptismal dying and rising in which Paul left his very self behind. Not just his plans. Not just his agency and protagonism. But his self. His old self. In what he would describe in Ephesians as “the lifestyle of the ancient man, the old self – life, which was corrupted by sinful and deceitful desires that spring from delusions” (Eph. 4:22 TPT).

Jesus is already walking toward you. Be certain that when you are drawn into that liminal no man’s land where you lose your sure footing before the God who reveals himself to you in some way, that you are on the Pauline path of conversion. 

Be sure that you will, like Paul, lose the clarity and certainty of being able to see through the filters firmly in place through a lifetime of reinforced belief. You will lose your power and as you walk through a desert you will have no way forward except what God will give you. You will lose the illusions of your old self. Your values will be refashioned, your priorities will change, your plans will be torn up. Heart will replace the violence of forcing on the world around you the stories that have shaped you since childhood’s early experiences. Your inner being will be renewed.

I love the way St Paul put it in the letter to the Ephesians:

“If you have really experienced the Anointed One, and heard his truth, it will be seen in your life; for we know that the ultimate reality is embodied in Jesus!

And he has taught you to let go of the lifestyle of the ancient man, the old self – life, which was corrupted by sinful and deceitful desires that spring from delusions. Now it’s time to be made new by every revelation that’s been given to you. And to be transformed as you embrace the glorious Christ-within as your new life and live in union with him! For God has re-created you all over again in his perfect righteousness, and you now belong to him in the realm of true holiness” (Eph. 4:21-24 TPT).

Today is the only day in the liturgical year that we celebrate the feast of the conversion of a saint. That day, and Paul’s response, were pivotal to civilization and Christianity from that day to what one day will be the end of the world. That’s how powerful a conversion is! 

Jesus is walking towards you, calling you out from your net of attitudes, thought-patterns and security into his arms because Jesus wants to send you, as he did Paul, to proclaim that you have met him and been transfixed by the love of his heart.

In this space of the heart’s being discovered we find re-creation, new life in union with Jesus, and true holiness.

Contact the author

Kathryn James Hermes, FSP, is the author of the newly released title: Reclaim Regret: How God Heals Life’s Disappointments, by Pauline Books and Media. An author and spiritual mentor, she offers spiritual accompaniment for the contemporary Christian’s journey towards spiritual growth and inner healing. She is the director of My Sisters, where people can find spiritual accompaniment from the Daughters of St. Paul on their journey.


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