Wide Open Door

     “When God closes a door, he opens a window.”  I hate that saying. So I searched the web, seeking the origin of such a half-baked remark. Did it really come from the Sound of Music?  
     Yes, I know the intent is to encourage us to see the silver lining. But, really? A door is tall.  It’s easy to walk through. You remain upright as you saunter on through. But a window, it’s small. You probably have to climb, crawl and wiggle to get through it. Doesn’t sound like a logical trade to me.
      Seriously, closing a door and opening a window isn't representative of a loving God. In my opinion the saying should be “When God closes the wrong door He opens the right door” or better yet, “When God closes a window, He opens a door.”  Yes, I definitely like that better.
     A big part of my job as a hospice social worker is reminiscent therapy and facilitating a therapeutic life review (Gotta love the way everything has to sound so clinical). Basically, it’s encouraging my patient to tell his life story from the earliest childhood memory to the present. The goal is to give value to a patient’s life. No one wants to die thinking that it was all pointless and that he didn’t make a difference. So I affirm, validate, and praise. This is the best part of my job, especially when it’s a war veteran. I love thanking him for his sacrifice.
     Usually I can reframe any bad experience or crisis in a positive way, because simply surviving a tragedy takes courage and resilience. Patients often confirm the old saying, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” It’s been my experience that most can look back at their lives and acknowledge that there was meaning and purpose in spite of life’s heartbreaks.
     But what happens when this isn’t the case? Mark was my most challenging patient,  challenging in that I couldn’t find any “good” in his life. Yes, I know that sounds harsh, but it’s true. He was in and out of detention centers from an early age. He grew into a drug addict, wife beater, and well, a not so pleasant man. His children described him as mean and bitter. How do you reframe that in a positive way?
     When I first met him, I have to admit, I was intimidated. Big, burley, unkempt and foul- mouthed, I think intimidation was his goal. But over the weeks, as I slowly built his trust, he began telling his story. His journey was one of many closed doors. He didn’t like windows much either. He smirked one day as he told of throwing a chair through a window in a moment of rage.
     Staring into his cold eyes, I realized his life had been a series of closed doors. Crashing a window seemed almost poetic, in a morose kind of way. I gathered my courage and asked if he ever felt trapped. He looked down and mumbled, “Still trapped.” Such an incredibly sad tragedy.
     I was able to share that no one is ever truly trapped. Yes, we can feel imprisoned, like we’re incapable of change. Mistakes and regrets may hold us captive, but by accepting our Creator's unconditional love, we can be freed.
     I would love to say that Mark accepted this agape love, but I’m not sure. He didn’t respond that day and died shortly after. What I do know is that there was an open door and he had the choice to walk through it.
     That’s the awesome thing about God. He opens the door to all, regardless of our past. The ugliness, the hurt, the pain, He washes it all away. You get a fresh, clean start through a wide open door.  Oh, and by the way, on the other side of the door is sustaining Grace and a Joy that’s indescribable. 

Sweet Serenity

     I want to live in Serenity. I hear it’s a peaceful place with rolling hills, quiet streams and plush pastures. There’s one problem; I don’t have a clue how to get there. In spite of this, I begin my journey . . .
     I hike up a mountain, and as I reach the top, pride blossoms. I pause to bask in my accomplishment. Closing my eyes, I lift my chin and savor the warmth of the sun on my cheeks. A cloud dances by and covers my sun. I open my eyes. No, as sweet as it is, this is not Serenity. I continue my journey.
     I cross a river . . .  still searching. Anxiety grows. Rain pelts down as the thunder claps. There is loss. There is sadness. I trudge forward, but Serenity is out of my grasp.

     Then . . .  an intersection. Indecision. Nausea churns in my stomach as I fret over which way to go. I crave to dwell in Serenity, but how do I get there? What if I make the wrong decision? How much will a mistake cost?  Fear engulfs me and the storm still rages. I doubt if Serenity really exists.

      I press forward, but soon I descend into a valley. I look up but the apricot sun sinks into the horizon. As the darkness gradually consumes me, my heart grows cold. I remain still. No desire to move. Apathy paralyzes me. I collapse.
      Then, a tender whisper, “I love you.”  He caresses my cheek. “Quit searching. I am here. Rest. I will take you to Serenity.”  He picks me up and cradles me to his chest. I feel his warmth. Peace consumes me. Joy begins to bubble from within. At last . . .  Serenity is mine.
     The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, 
he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. Psalm 23:1-3