With my complicated, not so easy, less than fulfilling on the surface, but-yet-totally-worth-it-in-the-end-once-the-boxes-have-been-unpacked-and-my-suit-pants-have-been-donned-cross country move only 10 or so days away now, I’ve been thinking a lot about the phrase, “when God closes a door, somewhere He opens a window.” Much of the last two years have been about looking for the bright side in the face of many seeming dark ones. Sparing the nitty gritty, I had to print out the operative lab reports from my old Cardiologist to bring to my new one, and reading over every step, ever stitch, ever cut, needle stick, and every zap of the defibrillator that I’ve endured over the last eighteen months makes me think about just that phrase, and precisely what this move means in the face of each of those pokes, prods and zaps of electricity straight to the ticker. Five months ago exactly, I wasn’t healthy enough to move 3000 miles away; all I was facing was closed doors, even though I had already said yes to UCSF on a whim, hoping and praying that I would be able to get there.
From my vantage point, at that moment, I felt like a toddler. I don’t remember much about being a young child, but what I do remember is having everything be just out of reach. I remember being able to just see the edge of the counter or table if I stood precariously on my tippy toes, but even then, everything placed their its polished surfaces were evidently out of reach of my proportionately short and still quite chubby arms. Try as I might, cookies, toys placed out of reach due to poor behavior, and adult objects were just far enough away that I couldn’t access them, causing frustration and anguish, tears and meltdowns. Even in my mid-twenties, with a sad heart, that had been melted, fried, frozen, ablated, medicated, infected, pried and poked to within an inch of its poor little (ok, maybe not so little…) existence, I desired the things that were just far enough out of reach. The doors that were feeling “closed” in front of me. But perhaps my theology of this was a bit off. Maybe the way I was thinking about this whole situation, my perspective and vantage point in light of my relationship with God and creation were wholly and intimately skewed – not because of the tragic nature of my experiences, but because of my desire to intellectualize everything, including my faith life, rather than to live into my faith with God each and every moment. Lets go through that one again – I am an intellectual, and love all things brainy and theological, and yet, there are some aspects of faith that simply cannot be intellectualized. They have to be lived. I’ll come back to that part later. But first, the theology.
See, the theology goes like this in my humble, seminary-educated opinion. The phrase, “when God closes a door, somewhere out there He opens another door,” is lovely, and hopelessly optimistic, and yet, on the other hand, it is horribly unReformed, and poor John Calvin and Martin Luther are turning over in their graves in shame just because I have mentioned it twice now. (FOR SHAME, Liz, for shame!) If we believe in some element of free will as fallen, choosey Christians (thank you Calvin, I am forever grateful for this theological doctrine!), then humans have the ability to choose not only a response to God’s faithfulness in the form of belief in the first place, but also the choice to follow God’s will, which has been predestined from before creation. Therefore, God never closes doors, nor does He open windows. Those doors and windows are pre-opened before our births, just waiting for us to run through them toward God’s open arms of embrace for us and us alone as His children.
So who is closing the doors and windows? If it isn’t God, then who is it? Well, not to place the blame on people, but…well…PEOPLE. Us. You. Me. We are the very people who are dulling and dampening the still small voice of God, who is shouting at us, encouraging us to GO THIS WAY or RUN THAT WAY toward the open door, window or what have you.
Sometimes, these decisions – open doors or windows – don’t always have the most encouraging of decisions or easiest of things on the other side, and yet, they are what God intended for us from the beginning. They are not what we would choose, and yet they are exactly what God would have chosen for us, try try as we might to avoid them. What makes us human is that we avoid the things that are hardest and yet best for us. Telling the truth if we have been lying or concealing the truth about a part of our lives to those we care about, opening up a new aspect of our lives to a new relationship, seeking a call in a new and challenging field or just plain trying again if we have failed at something we love – a relationship, a job, or even life.
In the midst of the challenging saga that were the beginning of my mid-twenties, I wondered what this phrase meant, and yet, I couldn’t possibly see a closing of a door and the opening of another as being complementary to another. The closing of a door in faith means the shutting off of God’s potential to show love to His people, His kingdom and those who are seeking for redemption and a second chance. The God of the Bible is wrathful, but He is also omnipotent and constantly looking to redeem, forgive, and ultimately give compassionate care to those in need of new life and second chances. Shutting doors only to begin an endeavor for an open window doesn’t allow for the sharing of immediate compassion, it only spurs on distraction and the search for an escape yet again, both for the seeker and for their divine guide. I never ran from God, and never had any clue that God would run from me. No windows, no doors, only enduring and persistent love and compassion as exhibited not by the closing of doors and windows, but rather the sharing of a long meandering walk together along the pathway of life.
Faith is something that has to be lived into, and while God appreciates a good theological and intellectual banter, at some point, yielding must occur. In the midst of illness, theological and intellectual banter provides security and safety unlike anything else. A security blanket of sorts. But so does faith. The phrase, “when God closes a door, somewhere He opens a window” is in some cases a theological cop-out and in other cases a theological security blanket, as on the one hand, it provides theological and spiritual safety for those who need to know that God never gives up the upper hand in our lives, especially when the going might seem to be getting tough. But on the other hand, it is so totally a theological cop-out, because it gives permission for us to choose the call. Or, instead, it places the blame in God’s hands completely, rather than in the hands of the human, which is the theologically appropriate response. Yes, I may be intellectualizing again, but it is also the seemingly comforting approach as well. Because if we say that God can potentially turn his back and shut the door on opportunities on a whim, then how are we to trust that God will be steady in our lives? To me, this phrase, if God doesn’t do X, He’ll certainly somewhere, at some point do Y, implies that God is inconsistent.
And is the God of scripture, of Christianity, of Judeo-Christianity, a lackluster, inconsistent God? That certainly isn’t the God I was taught about in Sunday School, or in Seminary, or at Smith.
So who are you kidding? Are you the one who is closing the door to opportunity by your actions and your words? Are you the one limiting yourself by claiming medical conditions that aren’t real or aren’t as serious? Are you the one placing limitations on your job or call potential that God has for you for reasons that are fear-based rather than reality- and faith-based? Discern the motivations behind your words and actions, because God isn’t shutting doors and opening windows. There is no theology behind those words, only human actions motivated out of selfishness and fear. And no one deserves to live a life motivated based on those two emotions.