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?

The Pendulum Swing

quantum-pendulum-ions-swing-lg

“I think if that was me, I would’ve been gone the first time somebody hit me. Once would’ve been enough.”

“Yeah, well, we all think we’re a lot more of a badass than we actually are and when we suddenly find ourselves in a situation we don’t know how to handle, we find out pretty quick that we’re not as bad as we thought we were.”

It’s a conversation I am so very tired of having and yet it’s one that has to happen. And every time it happens, I wonder how many more times I will have to say it. More often than I want to admit, I wonder if I’m really just wasting my time. But this is my everyday life.

That conversation would become yet another facet to a revealing Week of Guided Prayer. The unique thing about the week is that it’s a stay-at-home retreat. It’s a chance to take a time out of everyday life to pray and reflect and work with a spiritual director and yet stay home in the midst of all the normal stuff of life. This is awesome when you can’t completely walk away from all of life’s responsibilities for a week. But the flipside is that everyday life has a way of encroaching on the retreat, like getting pulled into a conversation you’ve had a thousand times already and really don’t want to have again. Ironically though, that’s precisely why I love the week. The constant pendulum swing between the sublime and the ridiculous is simply the rhythm of life and if I can’t learn to find God in that swing, I am so royally screwed.

I went into the week with an important question to consider: the question of dating church. I was offered the opportunity to teach religious education at my Catholic parish. One of my bigger pet peeves with the Catholic Church is the anemic religious education programs at most parishes. We don’t teach the kids anything of real catechetical substance but then as they grow into adults we expect them to follow all the Church teachings and traditions. Not only is the expectation is unrealistic and unfair, but some of the best that the Church has to offer is often left neglected in the shadows, forgotten by all but the clergy and a select few self-proclaimed church nerds. So here I was being given an opportunity to be a part of the solution. Saying yes seemed to make so much sense. But…

Yeah, there’s always a ‘But’.  Their religious education program is at 9:15 on Sunday mornings. Care to guess when my ELCA church, and pretty much every other Protestant church within 20 miles, holds services?  Yup, sometime between 9 and 10 on Sunday mornings.  In order to teach, I would have to give up dating other churches. My new Catholic parish is very conservative and, as my readers know by now, I am, well… very NOT conservative. My friend Frank likes to refer to me as The Free Spirit. Maybe this parish needs a breath of fresh air and maybe I could be that. But can I be that if I close the window that’s been opened for me? By the end of the week, in spite of all the encroachments of everyday life, I knew for certain the answer was no. By Friday night, I knew for certain that God has put me on a path for reasons all His own and, while I don’t get it, I will go where He’s leading. Dating church is decidedly part of that path.

Sunday night, as if in confirmation, I had one of my vivid watcher dreams. Somehow, being beyond time, I walked down the same city block over and over and over. I watched as the block shifted from one time period to another to another, with centuries passing by as rapidly as my own footsteps. As we reached modern times, my guide, a wise woman slightly older than myself, said to me, “He will be there. In every generation, He comes. Whether as an inerrant preacher or as a mendicant child, He comes. Your job is to recognize Him.”

I can’t recognize Him if I’m not looking. So I’m paying attention. And somewhere, in between the swings of the pendulum, in the midst of both the sublime and the ridiculous, He’s there.