Throughout our lives we close doors behind us when we have a change in place, a change in heart, a change in time. Like a river constantly flowing, even over its banks from time to time, we move and flow and change.
But, for the most part, when we leave someone or something behind, the door is closed graciously and with respect. We know that at any point ahead of us, we can go back and knock on that door. In spite of knowing that what might be behind that door may be dramatically altered.
There are times, though, when a door isn’t just closed behind us. It’s slammed. The welcome mat is dramatically withdrawn. And we are made to believe that this is nowhere where we are welcome.
The phenomenon of the locked door.
Now we as caring, intelligent adults really don’t like this experience. I’ve even known people who, disliking their job intensely, were horrified and defensive over being fired. Or people who dreamt of their pre-marital state find themselves devastated when their beloved walks out the door.
We may hate the reality of a original situation, but what we hate more is finding that that reality of a situation hated us back.
Out you go.
One of the things I have noticed, even in myself, is how we try to figure out ways to get that door back open. We’ll stop at nothing, at times.
Nothing is too good for the person or thing on the other side of the door. We’ll turn ourselves inside out if we have to.
One very consistent part of my training is about pathing: the art of knowing where you are in life at any given time (in spite of appearances).
And locked (or slammed) doors come into this knowledge.
In God, when a door is closed and locked against you, then you respect that as a signal for you to move on down the path that is before you.
Never knock on the door and ask to be readmitted. Never pound on the door and pour out your heart’s anguish. Never raise your voice to the door, thinking that a good argument will be the key. Literally.
The truth is, any of those tactics might very well work. There are ways in life to get the locked door reopened.
But in God, that would not be respectful to the person or thing that did the shooing out.
And, in truth, it isn’t respectful for yourself either.
I’m old now. Old enough to be able to look back over my life and gather up some of the threads of that life, enough to weave them together to make something warm and secure.
My training has been very much like that: the creation of security for my soul.
This lesson though, the lesson of the locked doors, has been especially potent in that creation.
I am a trained print production manager. I know about things like kerning and stripping. I was at it back when what we had for tools was wax and rollers.
And Pagemaker was just a twinkle in the eyes of computer programmers.
So it should not come as much of a surprise when I tell you that throughout my life whatever church I found myself in at the time when some sort of print product was being considered, I was given a seat at the table. An oversized, ornate throne at the table, in fact.
Welcome, Julia. We’re so glad you are here.
Sometimes, I just happened to be at the table when a project was proposed. Just the right place and the right time, I guess. Well, maybe right isn’t the right word for it.
Invariably — yes, invariably — there would come the pivotal point in my relationship with the committee.
I would mention something like, well, usually it’s wise to leave SOME margin of white space around the edges of a document. Your readers aren’t going to like to see something so jam-packed with words. If you want to keep your material down to one page, then edit down the words.
Thanks for sharing, Julia, as they say passively-aggressively out in California.
The most flamboyant there’s-the-door-don’t-let-it-slam-you-in-the moment came when in a group of what I would call the most intelligent group of churchmen I had ever been in, on a document (a document, mind you), an actual description of the very serious nature of the assemblage, I commented:
- It would be best if all sentences were complete.
- It would be even better if all sentences actually made sense. So that the reader could actually understand what we are talking about.
- Print projects designed with decorative red type, centered on the page, should be limited to Italian restaurants.
- In my humble opinion.
The sound of the door slamming is still ringing in my ears to this day.
Now, as anyone knows, anyone who has had a child anyway, that when someone slams a door, oftentimes it’s that same person who re-opens the door and asks you to come back in.
Begs you, sometimes, even.
See, here is the key of God’s idea of pathing in this situation: you are already down your path, at the next gate, admiring the next bed of pansies.
You are not there.
And if you are not there, then you can’t go back in.
No matter what.
Well, for me, it was clearly obvious that were I to rejoin the once-ousting group, chances were very, very high that when I objected to something I saw before me (the basic instinct of a print production manager, in fact) I would just get booted yet again.
That’s the truth, isn’t it?
Couples that split up and reunite don’t tend to stay united unless a profound healing takes place. A change of willingness. And commitment. And honesty.
That sort of radical restoration just doesn’t apply to most situations that we are faced with.
When you are dismissed from your job and given a box to pack your things in, get another job.
Go on down the road.
Think of it as a trip to Oz: Dorothy would never have gotten back home in the end if she hadn’t completed her journey.
But the most impressive benefit of respecting the locked door is this: you leave the mess that is there on the other side of the door.
It’s completely their responsibility now. It’s up to them to make things work in their world.
If we wrangle our way back into the chaos, then we are there in an attempt to make it better, apply balm to the wound, save the day.
Be the hero, in short.
But in God, there are no heroes.
Just schlubs who need to get where they are going in the chance that our schlubishness can be relieved.
If you don’t believe me about this, then just read the Bible.
The veritable textbook on blockheads and idiots.
In other words, us.
I have had a phrase playing around in my mind recently: the consequence of burning your bridges with someone is that you strand the other person on a far shore without the means or even the inclination to rebuild.
There are actual programs that guide people in coming to terms with making amends to those whom they have hurt. And slamming doors can hurt. A lot.
As we pick up our staff, our sandals, and our tunic, we have a life to live with only God before us. Going back to fix things has never been recommended.
Only the going forward on the path that lies under our feet is our way home.