On Knocking at the Door
No room at the inn…the Son of Man has no place to lay his head…if they welcome you…the knocking at the door…
The recurrent theme of welcoming.
Told so many times, in so many different ways; a picture of a door opening…
I suspect that it is a key image in the message of love.
I suspect that it may be the very substance of love.
One that may be overlooked, as we strike up the band, undertake service vocations or avocations and busy ourselves with all kinds of “outreach” projects that will “answer the call”, whether they involve feeding the hungry or saving the lost.
Overlooked, for the image of welcoming does not speak of our bounding out of the door in search of the needy.
It involves opening the door in response to a plea.
There is little comfort in that image.
For it means that our actions cannot be planned, proactive, programmatic or rehearsed.
They must be improvised and spontaneous.
We do not know the time.
We do know the place, but there is even less comfort in that knowledge.
For the place is where we live.
And the knocking is at our door.
So the space that is at risk is ours.
Easy enough to fall short in this arena, even when we hold the best of intentions.
But, easier still, to fall short when we are on the outside of the door.
We rarely look at things from that side of the door, for the role model on that side of the door was Jesus, who was, after all the perfect guest.
Yet we are called, again and again in our lives, to stand in his shoes.
Not, to be sure, as the Son of God or the Light of the World.
But as an anonymous traveler, as he was an anonymous traveler.
Seeking a place of shelter.
A place to stay. An interaction. A sanctuary. For us, perhaps, the sanctuary provided by companionship, a place to live, a neighborhood, a community, a place to practice our trade.
All of these things require the entrée of others.
How will we respond when the door is opened to us?
We know how Jesus responded.
He responded with an eternal commitment.
All too often, we see our successful entrance as a guide to future action.
A vision that places the emphasis squarely on what we did rather than on what our host did and that neatly defines our host as a means to an end.
As if we Christians believed that Jesus also engaged in such self-glorifying meditations and human usury.
A sign? A signal of divine grace or favor? Perhaps a personal revelation?
Being less than our role-model, being less than the perfect guest, it is easy for us to
confuse the welcoming by others with a calling to be welcomed.
Having met with such success, we may well seek to replicate that experience in other venues.
And so we may lurch on from one friendship to another, from one relationship to another, from one job to another, from one house to another, from one place to another, from one bar to another, from one intimacy to another…
Forgetting that a successful entrance was not due to our efforts, but to the entrée of others…
Forgetting that nothing would have happened in the first place, had not someone else opened the door...
Forgetting that such constant moving-on will fracture a succession of relationships, including the relationship that was forged in the first welcome.
Jesus knew better.
Which may be why, in his eyes, the door-openers are so precious.
Because he knows full well that someone else has to open the door.
He knows their value better than we do.
He responded with an eternal commitment.
Oh, we are well-versed in the moral lessons of welcoming the stranger.
And we are well-versed in the moral lessons of gratitude.
But I’m not so sure that they are the most important points in this recurrent theme of welcoming.
For we have shown great facility in welcoming all manner of strangers into our lives and in expressing our gratitude for the favors that a succession of hosts have granted us.
For we are a great generation of fly-boys.
In both the carnal and spiritual senses.
Forgetting that such constant moving-on will fracture a succession of relationships, including the relationship that was forged in the first place.
Not surprisingly, we describe those who have never “ventured forth”, those who have spent most of their lives in the same place, as deficient in drive and curiosity.
Not surprisingly, we puzzle over those who choose a monastic life, believing them to be “condemned” to a life of sameness in routine and companions.
Not surprisingly, we define the message of The Wizard of Oz as a most flagrantly naïve statement of homely wisdom.
Not surprisingly, we sacrifice relationships to quests.
Whether the relationships are spousal and family and the quest is a conquest;
Whether the relationships are “sentimental” and the quest is for “self-realization”;
Whether the relationships are friends and the quest is a “spirit-driven decision”;
Whether the relationships are sisters and brothers and the quest is a new “open door”…
Forgetting that the relationships may be the end of the quest.
Forgetting that the relationships may be the point of the quest.
Forgetting that the relationships, and most particularly the welcoming of others, may be the core and essence, the be-all and end-all, of Jesus’ message.
Having come to this place, we could do worse than to look at our present relationships and place a high priority on maintaining them, even at the expense of a multitude of future projects.
And we could do worse than to reach back and reestablish relationships from the past, specifically with those who have, at one time or another, welcomed us.
These things can be done.
Even with relationships that beckon from decades past.
Provided that our behavior has not been too egregious.
Thanks to their display, yet again, of the generosity that welcomed us in the first place.
Not to our behavior.
Oh, it lacks the glory of a mission for self-fulfillment.
It is no such palpable human quest; it seeks not the final attainment of all-that-was-meant-to-be in a moment of dazzling oneness.
It is a seeking of what we, ourselves, have overlooked in a mere “oneness” with God.
Oh, it lacks the glory of a mission to seek the lost.
It is no such palpable Christian quest; it seeks not the glorious rescue of those whom we feel are called to a glorious rapture.
It is a seeking of what we, ourselves, in all of our glorious arrogance, have left behind.
I post new articles twice-monthly in “Author’s Corner”.
If you live in or near the Lakes Region of New Hampshire, and you would be interested in meeting with others for discussion and/or prayer, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. All are welcome, regardless of identity or personal choices. Please understand that I do not have the resources to guarantee that I will be able to read or respond to all other correspondence.
Toward Dawn is a privately-funded outreach, and it neither solicits nor accepts contributions.
Rob Wright holds advanced degrees in education and performing arts, and he has been a professional teacher for over sixteen years. In his home denomination, he has served as a lay minister in liturgical, educational and ecumenical activities. He lives in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire with his spouse of twenty years and their daughter.