Closed doors and Hempstead Highway

The HOV is blocked by a stalled bus, so we’ll be taking Hempstead in. Nice.

Being blocked is part of life. Unless you’re sitting still all the time, you’re going to have obstacles at times  between where you’re at and where you’re wanting to be.

Sometimes the way is impassable. What do you do? What are your options?

Some people plot their spiritual course relying on the Urim and Thummim of what I call Open door/Closed door theology. “Look for the open door”. Sometimes they add the modifier “when God closes a door, He opens a window.”

It’s not ridiculous to think this way. There are solid Biblical examples: Paul’s closed door to Asia and open door to Macedonia, for example. However, Paul didn’t approach his situation by simply saying “closed door, must stop.” In fact, if you read the applicable text in Acts 16, there is no mention of contrary circumstances standing in Paul’s way at all. It was the Holy Spirit who forbade him and his team to speak in Asia, and the context suggests they were striving mightily to do so, because they had to be forbidden again by the spirit of Jesus (Acts 16:6-10).

This is one reason among many why setting your path based upon whether there are obstacles in your way, or “closed doors” if you like,  can be both a cop out and a good way to miss out on the better plan. Sure, sometimes the Lord Himself is the obstacle and in that case the path is clearer. Sometimes, as in Paul’s case, the Lord really does open another door.

But sometimes he wants us to bull through the obstacle. Sometimes he wants us to sit and wait by the obstacle. Sometimes we have to take a detour. And sometimes he has other plans entirely.

Sometimes when God closes a door, he doesn’t open a window. He wants you inside when the building collapses. – Jared Wilson

Read Scripture and watch the main characters struggle and strive to get where God is taking them. Take the aforementioned Paul, for example. One might consider being stoned with rocks, dragged out of a city and left for dead to be a “closed door.” But it wasn’t. See Acts 14:19-23 and this old post of mine.

The HOV lane is a “closed door” this morning, but I’m still supposed to go to work. So my bus will crawl down Hempstead highway to get to the Transit Center, and I’ll pick up the 33 there and be on my way. I’ll get where I’m supposed to go, a little later than I would have liked, and that’s OK.

Turning around and going back home to get in bed because I hit a “closed door” was never an option.

“Just moments later, you’d hear her sing”

My friend Olivia shares her story,  excerpted below:

If you could rewind 3 years, you’d see the tear-streaked face of a girl who heard the news that she would have to undergo ACL reconstruction surgery. You’d feel her frustration that she is no longer able to be physically independent. You’d see her try her best to refuse help. You’d watch her self-esteem plummet as she gained weight from the injury.

A few months later, you’d see her sitting on her back porch after surgery. You’d watch her try to comprehend the phone call. “We don’t know if he’s dead or alive.” You’d watch her cry and scream as she reached the ER a moment too late. You’d watch her mourn the loss of a dear friend. You’d watch her yell at God alone in her car before physical therapy.

Two months later, you’d watch her say goodbye to the biggest idol her heart had ever known: a four and a half year relationship. You’d see her struggle with shame and anger. You’d see her stumble around, trying to find new places to feel beautiful and wanted. You’d see a broken young woman in the midst of an identity crisis.

A few weeks later, you’d see her pick up her dusty Bible and turn to Psalm 73 and read:

When my soul was embittered, when I was pricked in heart, I was brutish and ignorant; I was like a beast toward you. Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

You’d see her cry tears of absolute joy. You’d see her heart fill with sorrow that she had abandoned the God who had chosen her before the foundation of the world. You’d see her pray for the first time in years, asking Jesus to make her new again.

Just moments later, you’d hear her sing.

I love redemption! As they say,  read the whole thing.

I’d like a boring president

“The President of the United States is our employee. The services he and his legislative cohorts contract for us are not gifts or benefices, We have to pay for every one of them, sometimes with our money, sometimes with our skins.

If we can remember this, we’ll get a good, dull Cincinnatus like Eisenhower or Coolidge. Our governance will be managed with quiet and economy.” – P.J. O’Rourke, Give War a Chance

Yes. Here we are in 2016, raving at each other and ourselves about which strong-man/strong-woman will destroy the things (and people) we hate and “make great” the things we claim to love. All the while hardly considering how any one of the current front-runners can serve up, in reality, the red-meat they are feeding us rhetorically while working in good faith within our constitutional framework. Many of the supporters of the front-runners – at the moment Sanders, Clinton and Trump – almost seem to think running roughshod over the separation of powers and ruling via executive fiat and “deals” is a feature, not a bug.

I’d like someone who is boring, humble, competent, respectful of his/her place in the constitutional order and our nation’s place in the world order, and who understands that cults of personality and savior-complexes, while fun for the moment, are ultimately destructive.

I don’t expect to be satisfied on any of these wants this time around, and perhaps never.

Work towards holiness

Bethany gives her thoughts on Christian behavior. I rather like this:

It’s not okay to just go around talking about how “totally depraved” we are and do nothing about it. Yes, we’re sinful and evil. Fix that. Work towards holiness. And that doesn’t mean that we need to be more judmental and righteous and make sure everyone lives to our standards. No, to be more holy means to be merciful and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love. That is God describing himself in Exodus 6. Wanna be more like God? Be that. He says himself to leave the vindication and judgement to him. That’s the part he doesn’t want us to be like.

There are ways that I could be more unashamed of God and the gospel, but I will never apologize for trying to be a better person and caring about this world or this life. Don’t be a jerk. Be a light of the gospel to a dying world. Be kind. Be loving. Help someone out physically, not just spiritually.

Emphasis mine.

True persons

“Just as Adam could not be truly himself without Eve, so are all the Hebrew patriarchs and matriarchs called by God – not to live in solitary faithfulness, but to serve as the progenitors of his people Israel. In Christian tradition, faithfulness always requires “two or more.” Solitary fidelity is a contradiction in terms. Faithfulness is always communal. Jesus goes alone in the wilderness – just as Christian hermits still dwell in solitude – only for the sake of his community and Kingdom. Tolkien stands in full accord with this fundamental insistence that we become true persons only in engagement and community with other persons. He also discerns that pride, the deadliest of the cardinal sins, is usually a denial of our dependence on others. It is an attempt at pseudo-lordship – as if God himself were not a triune community of persons, as if he were not the God who refuses to be God without his people.”

From Ralph C. Wood, The Gospel According to Tolkien

Pulling at the other end of the cord

It is always shocking to meet life where we thought we were alone. “Look out!” we cry, “it’s alive.” And therefore this is the very point at which so many draw back — I would have done so myself if I could — and proceed no further with Christianity. An “impersonal” God — well and good. A subjective God of beauty, truth and goodness, inside our own heads —better still. A formless life-force surging through us, a vast power which we can tap — best of all. But God himself, alive, pulling at the other end of the cord, perhaps approaching at an infinite speed, the hunter, king, husband — that is quite another matter. There comes a moment when the children who have been playing at burglars hush suddenly: was that a real footstep in the hall? There comes a moment when people who have been dabbling in religion (“Man’s search for God”!) suddenly draw back. Supposing we really found him? We never meant it to come to that! Worse still, supposing he had found us?

– C.S. Lewis, Miracles

We’ll blink first.