By Nancy R. Catan, BCBP Manila
When was the last time you opened a door? I mean really concentrated on the process of opening a door? If you are like me, we most often take for granted the act of opening a door to go from inside to outdoors, or outside to inside. This year “doors” are the subject of my Lenten reflections, with the book of Joyce Rupp, Open the Door: A Journey to the true self, being my reading material. So, during the next few weeks I invite you to journey with me through both closed and open doors.
Doors are quite essential in our lives. They provide us security and are a barrier and protection against things or people or bad weather we don’t want to face. Doors can also be welcoming and can provide passageways to places that beckon us forward. They connect us to events that have influenced our lives.
Way back when I was in high school, I attended a Christian Summer Camp for two weeks. One of our activities was to visit different rural churches in the area. It was in one of these old small churches that I first encountered the scene of Jesus knocking at the door. Behind the altar was a larger-than-life stained glass window with Jesus standing in front of a closed door, knocking on the door. The pastor explained to us that the door represented our heart, that Jesus could not open the door because it had no doorknob, that we had to open the door of our heart to Him before He could enter.
As the years went by I learned that in both Hebrew and Christian scriptures the heart is the place of divine movement where spiritual transformation takes place. Rupp likes to refer to the heart as the authentic or true self, one’s deeper self, the sanctuary of the soul. St. Teresa de Avila calls it the interior castle, with many secret chambers and rooms with many connecting doors that lead to our inner self, to our authentic God-created self.
Rupp believes that when we open the door of our heart to God, we open ourselves to growing and changing into better persons whose lives radiate goodness, or as she puts it “God-ness”. It is the choices and decisions we make that determine if we open the door to opportunities and change, if we actually step through the door, if we continue on and enter the unknown territory on the other side of the door. Or, we can actually choose to ignore the door, not to open it, and not to enter the unknown, choosing to remain in our own little comfort zone.
I realize now that each time I opened a new door in my life and stepped into the unknown future, I have been transformed in some way – in experiences that have enriched me, in relationships that have nourished me, and in challenges that have uplifted me spiritually and emotionally.
Rupp reflects that the purpose for opening the door inward to our heart is to help us know and claim who we are so we can more completely join with our Creator in expressing this love in every part of our external world. She says that whether we open the door freely or are shoved through it by unexpected and sometimes unwanted life circumstances, we should welcome the opportunity to take Jesus’ hand and learn and grow from every situation in which we find ourselves.
She’s right; this is exactly what has happened to me. I now keep a laminated picture of Jesus Knocking at the Door on our home altar to remind me to always keep the door to my heart open. Whenever I open a new door and pass through it to confront new possibilities, new challenges and new opportunities, I become ever more conscious of myself as a person with unlimited potential for goodness and for God-ness. With each threshold crossing, I look forward and leave behind my fears and doubts. In so doing, I gain greater freedom as a child of God and get to know my authentic self even more intimately. Believe me, opening the door of your heart is truly a transforming experience!
Doors are really essential in our lives. But many doors that we use require a key to unlock them so we can open them. I try to remember to carry the key to my office door and the key to our home gate in my pocket at all times. When I forget, I feel somewhat disoriented.
Opening the doors in our lives also needs keys. I remember when we were youngsters, Mom had us memorize this verse: Hearts like doors open with ease, To very, very little keys. And don’t forget that two of these Are “I thank you” and “if you please”. Whenever we forgot to say “please” when we wanted something, or forgot to say “thank you” when we received it, she would remind us with that short verse and make us repeat it until we had it memorized.
Hearts like doors open with ease to very, very little keys. Joyce Rupp in her book “Open the Door” points out that many times when we are facing a difficult situation or challenge, we struggle with it, forgetting to use a key to open the door of the solution. What are some of these keys? Persistence, a willingness to listen to others, openness to change, courage to step outside our comfort zone, prayer, prayer and more prayer.
From experience I have learned that pausing for a time to reflect on and process the situation, to sift out what is really important, and write down the pros and cons of actions being considered is another valuable key to unlocking the door to right decisions and actions. This pause can be for even as short as a minute or two, to as long as an hour, a day, or a week. Such pause allows our heart-anchored wisdom to come to the surface and become an important factor in our decision-making.
Being a member of a caring community is yet another key. Your caring community can be your family, a neighborhood coffee group, a parish study group, a charismatic community like the Brotherhood of Christian Businessmen and Professionals, BCBP, your BCBP Household Action Group. In such a group members lovingly support and encourage each other in their life journeys. They intercede in prayer for us, they encourage us to find and use our personal talents. As Rupp says, quoting D. Davies, “Insights into our own shadows are best gained in the company of others who lovingly offer us their vision from vantage points not blocked by the pillars of our own ego.”
Our lives are full of doors just waiting to be opened. Every moment is a door, each particle of life is a door. We just need to discover and use the right keys to open these doors. Where can we find these keys? In our hearts, in the forgotten learnings of past experiences, in our joys and sorrows, our blessings and our pain, in our family relationships, in our friendships, in God – all these contain one or more keys that can open the doors to better tomorrows.