“Um God, do you think that perhaps you’ve lost your ever loving mind?” That’s a rough paraphrase, but generally captures the way I was feeling and praying as I drove around last Sunday. I had a couple hours to just do whatever, and I ended up using that time to just feel, pray and think through some direction I’ve been getting from God and, mostly, my resistance to it. My husband frequently prays that God would open doors He wants us to go through and close others that we should not. The simplicity and clarity of that prayer has been a blessing to us both and to the path our life together has taken. Sometimes, doors open and it feels like the birds are singing as sun-rays burst forth in glorious brilliance. Sometimes, doors close and with a deep sense of certainty, we know it’s time to walk away. Lately, however, God has been opening my eyes to a path that scares me, and, what’s more, He’s beckoning me to walk down it. I’d love to say that I’ve jumped at His invitation and dashed down the dark hallway, but instead, I’ve looked at the shadowy path and scary doors and said, “Um, God, no thank you?” The invitation, for me, has been to step into a new creative project: one that will require digging deep into old stories and memories that always evoke a heavy sigh. Last week, in my prayer-drive, as I realized He was leading me clearly in this direction, I also realized how much I did not want to go. So, I’ve been pondering. What do we do when God calls us through scary doors? What about when life forces us through them? Dark and dank passageways are all around us; often, we can just go a different route. Sometimes, though, maybe the only way is the one that seems to scare us most. Then what?
For me, the frightening walkways of life can bring new vigor to all my deep doubts: what if I can’t cut it? What if others think I’m doing this wrong? What if I fail and simply fall to pieces? What if I don’t know what I’m doing? What if I make a fool of myself? And, the worst of them all, when faced with scary doors, what if the effort and pain are wasted and nothing comes of what I invest?
Here’s the thing I’ve learned about walking out life: sometimes, the only way through is through. I’ve had too many experiences where I’ve tried – sometimes for years – to slink around the shadowy edges, to drive the long way around the mountain or to just take another road altogether. I can go around the same inner obstacle again and again and again. Sometimes, in what I know inside is God’s mercy, He’s given me the opportunity to do just that. Finally, I’ve been so worn down and exhausted in my own wearying detours, I’ve finally just surrendered to walking headfirst through the thing. Especially when my fearful heart says to go any other way, the way I must go is through. The miracle is that when I walked through my first black-hole, I discovered something that somehow surprised me and, at once, made perfect sense. Once I went through, I never had to contend with that blockade again, at least not in the same way. Sometimes, a shadow of an old hinderance pops up, and thanks to having walked through it in the past, I can step over and through it in confidence and with relative ease.
In all truth, it’s been awhile since I came up on a door that God wanted me to walk through and I’ve fought back. I’ve had enough practice saying, “Here I am. I will go,” that it’s gotten easier with time. It’s not that I don’t feel afraid or have to face my own shortcomings. I certainly do, but I have gotten better at walking forward in the middle of my humanness. So, finding myself driving around in my precious “free time” telling God I thought He’d maybe lost it was a little surprising and maybe even a little disappointing.
When faced with scary doors and daunting passageways, we have three real options:
- We can run. I’ve done that. I never can run for too long though. When you sincerely pray for open passageways and closed doors, God is gracious to comply. This can also be cleverly masked as a sort of meandering avoidance. Basically, we look for other paths – but, as I’ve said, the only way through is through and if God’s leading us one way, no matter what path we choose, He’ll bring us back to that scary door again. It’s just a question of what life gets lived in the meantime.
- We can also freeze. Fear can buckle our knees in a way little else can, and we can lock ourselves into a stagnant “grin and bear it” if we’re not mindful about how we respond to our fears. Yes, there are times to rest and wait on God. It’s sensitivity to the Spirit that can tell you which is which. There are also times to make sure we’re moving. Go forward as well as you can, and He’ll get you where you need to go. It’s the faith to walk that matters.
- Lastly, we can go forward in trust.
I am imagining myself, as I write these words, reaching forward, grabbing the heavy leaden door handle and pushing it open. The fear isn’t about the door, of course; it’s what is on the other side. But that’s the thing I’ve learned about God and these metaphoric scary doors: He’s always there with me as I walk forward – and His blessing is always on the other side.
Now is the time. I’m looking at my scary door, the one I know God is asking me to walk through, and saying yes. I may not be able to muster an excited “tally ho!,” but I’m doing the thing. You can too. We can walk together through the tunnels and hallways and forest paths we’ve avoided for so long. The only way through is through. And it’s okay to be afraid; just remember, you never walk alone. Turn from the way you’ve always done the hard thing and step into His way. Every step counts, but the only way to begin is to begin. Life is on the other side. Let go and let’s go.