Doors, Locked and Otherwise

florence-church-full_medDuring the Week of Guided Prayer, images of doors and houses came up every single day, which really isn’t all that shocking because I have a thing about doors, particularly closed, locked ones. One of the things that came up for discussion was a dream I had that was still haunting me. Two and a half years is a long time for a dream to stick with me. And it’s as real to me now as the night I dreamt it.

I was in the shadows across from a church door. A man came to the door and finding it locked, he began to beat on the door until his hands were bloodied and broken. He had his head against the door, crying as he pounded away in vain. I could smell the blood from where I was but could only watch, trapped and terrified in the shadows. I woke up still trying to scream and unable to.

I know this dream is something I need to work with, to explore in my writing. The imagery has become clearer and whatever was stopping me from moving closer is gone now. I learned the hard way writing The Gremlin and The Return of the Gremlin that sometimes my writing will not be under my control, at all, not even a little bit. This story of the man beating on the church door is one of those stories. It will not be writing. It will be more like watching and taking good notes. Knowing that, I started to doodle this morning and to piece out snatches of dialogue. Then I read today’s gospel. And what do I read? The man knocking on his friend’s door at midnight. Because, if nothing else, God is a stalker who likes to make sure He has my attention.

The obvious theme of that story is persistence. Keep knocking and the door will open. Keep asking and you will receive. And I realized that for most of my life, I’ve heard that story and pictured God on the other side of that closed, locked door, wishing I would go away and quit knocking. But what if this story is actually exactly what Jesus says it is: two ordinary people. And what if we look a little closer: there is a subtheme of indifference. A dialogue that could very well be something like this:

Knocker: Hey, I really need your help with this thing.

Knockee: It’s late. I’m tired. I worked all day. I’m in my pajamas, watching Netflix, and I literally just poured a glass of wine. Text me tomorrow.

See, it’s not the fact that the door is closed and locked. It’s the indifference, the active choice not to acknowledge that there is a problem that sets up the refusal to help. It’s a choice of the knockee to remain indifferent by making excuses that sound reasonably valid in hopes that the knocker will go away and figure out their issue on their own.

doorSo maybe the takeaway here is that the knocker isn’t pounding away on the door to get the thing, whether it’s a loaf of bread or money or advice in an emotional crisis. Maybe the knocker is pounding away at the door to knock down the indifference, to call attention to the excuses we make that only sound reasonable at midnight when you’re in your pajamas watching Man in the High Castle with a bowl of popcorn and a nice glass of Riesling. Would that same excuse sound as reasonable in the morning after your second of coffee? Or do you hear the knocker’s plea a little differently in the daylight?

There are an awful lot of people in this world knocking on doors that are closed and locked. Are we really listening to what they need or do we just want them to go away?

Mud Puddle Sunset: Thoughts on Perspective

After the storm
August 10, 2012

I’ve been told that I have a tendency to see things that others don’t.  It’s a gift I don’t even pretend to understand.  With the turf being redone, the field near my house quickly transitioned from dirt to mud to lake as three inches of rain fell in under an hour.  The skies cleared.  The water began to drain off.  Then as the sun started to set, amazingly clear reflections appeared in puddles all over the field.

Sometimes once you see something, no matter how hard you try, you can’t unsee it.  I know.  I’ve been trying, with no success, to get the image of God and I and our intense tete-a-tete out of my head.  Wasn’t it a blessing?  A breakthrough?  A revelation?  Yes, yes and yes.  But it didn’t just open a door.  It knocked down the whole wall.  I can’t put it back up.  It’s not that I necessarily want to put it back up, but it’s left me feeling pretty exposed even now, three weeks later.  It’s been long enough now for the old insecurities to start creeping back in.  I still find myself flinging stuff at God sitting over there in his chair but now when I do, I can’t help but see myself from his side of the room.  Yes my flaws and imperfections are still there but now I can’t help but see it with a different lens of compassion.  Compassion is something reserved for other people, not for myself.  It’s uncomfortable  in a way that I can’t quite put my finger on.

But I keep looking at this photo of the mud puddles reflecting the sunset so beautifully.  It’s not a flawlessly perfect mirror reflection but it’s strikingly beautiful nonetheless.  One expects to see such reflections in pristine mountain lakes not in a stripped-down muddy football field full of contractor’s stakes and heavy equipment.

So if beauty lies in the unexpected, then it’s not such a far leap to find consolation in the uncomfortable.  It’s just a matter of perspective.