Jo and I met recently for one of our ‘check-ins’ at a beautiful little café. We were captivated by the entrance bejeweled with boston ivy and grape vine – forming a red and gold canopy that enfolded and invited us in to the warmth of the kitchen.
This got us talking about doors and gates and pathways. We wondered why they are so captivating.
Is it that they are symbolic of entrances that guide us from the familiar into the unknown – new inner spaces? And, why are doors the focus of so many quotes such as “when one door closes – another opens”; “Knock and the door will be opened to you’ (Luke 11.9).
We reflected on the pathways we had each traveled and the doors we had encountered along the way.
Some paths had been wide and easy to tread. They led to partly open doors enabling us to see the comfortable landscapes that lay ahead. We felt in control, able to make plans and predict our future. Just like Joy Cowley said in her poem “I’m addicted to comfort.”
Other paths had been narrow, fraught with pain, trudged unwillingly and perilously close to a crumbling precipice. Sometimes, there was no path – just a vast dark wilderness that stripped us of all certainty, calm and inner peace. Doubt, fear and panic barged in as our constant companions.
These narrow paths or vast empty wildernesses, created through difficult life circumstances, had catapulted us through a door, with no option to return to the familiar security and beauty so loved. Feelings of paralysis, of being pulled down in an ever-deepening vortex threatened to overwhelm.
However, as unwilling travelers on these narrow paths, we began to confront some truths about life and about ourselves – past wounds, our smallness, fears and regrets. Painful as this was, it created new paths that led to doors that opened gently onto strength-giving, beautiful and life-filled vistas.
Joyce Rupp in her book, Open the door: A journey to the true self challenges us to
“ponder our inner prison, our places of unfreedom”. Walking these narrow paths and unlocking tightly bolted doors can take enormous courage and energy. Our heart wants to cling to the safety of the known. I think the hardest thing we are called to do is to ‘let go’.
Holding our fear gently and stepping into the unknown is a choice we each have. Each time we walk a narrow path or encounter a locked door we have a choice – the choice of life and growth or the choice of bitterness and resentment. Choosing life leads us to learn to forgive, to be less judgmental, to be more compassionate, even to love ourselves.
As a passionate gardener, I make my own paths – winding, grassed, barked or bricked, all designed to lead from one space to another. I created a garden in memory of my parents – a sacred space filled with pink and blue hydrangeas, climbing roses, bay trees, and boston ivy clinging to the shed wall. I love to walk the short path that leads into this beautiful little prayer garden, sit awhile – and feel their loving presence.
And so it was at the café. We had sat together awhile, talking, listening, being within a loving presence. What a gift! Walking out through the red and gold canopy of autumn leaves we hugged our goodbyes – refreshed in the joy of connecting with kindred spirits, who each “choose life”.