Mark and I read recently in Divine Providence about how the door to heaven opens and closes in our minds, and if the door is closed to heaven, you just can’t see what is true. I find this a very helpful way of thinking. I like to envision doors opening, and also closing, below me, into hell. If I can shut my eyes and decisively shut the door under me, it quiets the vindictive, revengeful voices telling me what a bad card I was dealt or how hopeless it all is or whatever thought is plaguing or paralyzing me.
We all have our blind spots, our closed doors. For me, my 50s have been great for opening doors I didn’t know existed. Consciously deciding to be curious has helped. Wanting to be an angel someday has helped. Watching what happens when large swaths of people believe their causes are right, impenetrable, and that other voices should be squashed, has also helped.
In a related way, I have recently felt doors opening while listening to podcasts. Podcasts are a great way to get out of our echo chambers (groups of people who think exactly the way we do). You get to hear real people talking in a public yet frank way to people whom they trust about the issues that matter to them. Curiosity has led me to many thoughtful conversations that have subtly changed my perspective. One of these is the “Family Life Today” podcast, which is produced by a delightfully frank, open, die-hard Christian couple who are not afraid to discuss the topics where most people in their tribe daren’t tread. Doubting God. Blended families. Teenagers leaving the path. Introverts: does everyone have to be an evangelist? Perimenopause! One of my favorites. They interview authors frequently, and it was Sherri Lynn who wrote a book entitled “I want to punch you in the face but I love Jesus: the Ultimate PMS Companion.” She was a riot!
Our church puts on a Christmas Tableaux every year. When I hear the scripture being read, or the Messiah playing while we view Mary, Joseph, and a real infant, it is impossible not to feel something stirring very deeply. It’s as if these words are so precious, so pure–just like the infant–that to mess with them at all is dangerous, but to frame them in their proper context opens a shaft straight to the highest heaven. This year a TV reporter showed up at our Tableaux to do an interview and take a few shots, but ended up captivated. He stayed for the whole thing told me afterwards about his travels around the world, seeing different depictions of the nativity, and his Christian background. He said he wouldn’t miss this in future years, as a Christian not as a reporter. A door opened for him, and for me, in that conversation.
But what if we don’t know the door is even there? What if it feels like a wall, and a good wall, a healthy boundary? How to discover what are walls and what are doors that are simply invisible to us in our current state? How do we be open to the heavenly doors without inadvertently opening a door to hell?
Here I feel the guidance from the literal sense of the Word, which, remember, contain the entirety of the spiritual sense in their words. “By their fruits you will know them.” What are the fruits of opening a certain door? Does it nudge me into states of connection, love, order, of seeing something good in someone that I didn’t see before? Or does it nudge me towards states of self-righteous, rage, scorn, or derision? Or hopelessness and despair? If it helps me to see the good in other people where I couldn’t see it before, I’m pretty sure that is a door to heaven.