My daughter Sariya is a firestorm of a 15 month old. She’s loud, aggressive with her affection, and completely reckless with her body. I can’t imagine where this comes from in her (Bethany, I assume). But lately she’s gotten into this habit of closing every door she can possibly find. She can push any part of the door, move it with her foot, or head-butt it into place. It’s quite easy for her. The problem is that it’s not nearly as easy for her to open the door up after it’s latched. The only way she can do that is to get a stool, stand up high enough to reach the knob, and then turn it all the way and pull. That’s not exactly in her skill set yet, so all she does is go around closing herself off from the rest of the world, trapping herself inside, and then throwing a tantrum. It’s kind of ridiculous to hear her complaining from inside a dark bathroom, where she has chosen to sequester herself just for the fun of being able to close doors.
I was challenged early this morning, freeing Sariya from yet another “locked in” experience, to be aware of how easy it is to close doors all around me, and how hard and more important it is to create open doors–spaces for people to connect on a deeper level, learn to love, work together, dialogue, and understand each other, without pretense. Closing doors is something that we all tend to be specialists at. We can close a door without even thinking. A simple comment about a certain “type” of people, a word of criticism or judgement, an unkind word to a family member, a bumper sticker, even a look…. they can all close doors in our relationships with others in the world. Especially when we get into discussions about Jesus, and our faith. If you don’t think like me, talk like me, act like me, then you are the other. That kind of attitude is one that closes doors. And how easy it is for us to lock ourselves inside our worlds, especially in faith communities, and bemoan the fact that the doors are locked and it feels a bit claustrophobic.
We also close doors because it’s so much easier to not let other people into our imperfect, messed up worlds, and because we don’t know what to do with other people’s imperfect, messed up worlds, if they let us in. But maybe it’s precisely because we feel the need to “do something” with it that we struggle to maintain openness. To be in community with one another does not mean to fix each other. At least not in Jesus-centered community, it doesn’t.
It’s so much easier to close doors than open them, but when is anything worthwhile ever easy? “Discipleship” is the process of developing the heart of Jesus (his character) and learning to do the things in the world that Jesus did (his competency). One of the biggest ways that we can follow Jesus is to imitate his door opening ability. Jesus spent all of his life not just opening doors, but ripping them down. Completely destroying the dividing lines of what was culturally appropriate, what could be talked about, who the in crowd was, and what God really cared about.
But the fascinating thing about life with Jesus is that the doors often need to open deep within us first. We need to be comfortable allowing Jesus to shape our inner life. Once we become open enough to be loved there, the door-closing tendencies in our outer life begin to stop. We start growing up, realizing that we actually have the tools it takes to twist the knob and open. We see the unnecessary foolishness of closing the doors around us.
This is tougher than it sounds. But it will be the mark of the renewed Christianity that some of us are seeing emerging on the horizon. The hope that those of us who call ourselves the church can truly be people without walls, who are far more concerned with learning the tools of breaking down barriers than we are with the easy little motions that keep people outside.
That world is possible.