Safety Bill and I had just fallen asleep. Well, I was about to enter that deep stage of sleep when little noises and nagging thoughts start to disappear and you give in to that wave of blessed slumber that should hopefully last for about eight hours. Mine lasted for about eight minutes-- because I woke to a strange whimpering, scratching sound. It didn't sound like our dog Harry because he either barks with conviction or cries pitifully (and theatrically, at times). This was more like a very panicked cry for help and the sound of struggle.
"Did we leave Harry outside by mistake?" I whispered to Bill, elbowing him awake. If it was a robber in the living room I didn't want to advise him that we were awake.
"No, I brought him in. He was with me downstairs just before I came to bed."
Oh. Now I knew what the noise was and where Harry was: he was between a rock and a hard place.
My poor shaggy boy is now about ten years old and getting slightly arthritic and more than slightly unbalanced. He has fallen down the last couple of stairs a couple times and scared us and ourselves by his lack of ability to do things he used to so easily do.
I ran to the door leading to our downstairs finished basement and carefully but quickly opened it. It was dark and there was the sound of his nails scrambling on the top painted step; and then he flopped into me. He could have fallen the other way, down the stairs.
You see, he was at the top of the stairs, but the door was clsoed. It was dark. (Bill had left Harry asleep on the couch downstairs when he had come up to bed.) The stairs are slippery because they are a painted wood, with kind of a enameled coating. The stairs- each tread- are narrow. Harry is wide. And thus his predicament: he was waiting for us on the very top step, leaning against a closed door, his body half falling over the step and threatening to tumble down. He was in the dark. And what scared him the most, I think, was not that the door wouldn't open if he cried out or barked loudly, but that the door would suddenly open and he'd lose his balance and tumble down.
You know where I'm going with this, don't you? Opened Doors are not all that they're made out to be. You think you're waiting for an opportunity so you can get to something better, but if God opens the door suddenly, are you ready for it? And more than that, just the door opening itself can sometimes be a violent act, a scary sudden thing. Opened doors are not necessarily safe.
Oh, I don't mean that God will ever lead you into unsafe, sinful territory. He won't ever, ever, tempt you to fall. God does not work that way. (When tempted, no one should say, "God is tempting me." For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone...James 1:13). But God will bring you into a promised land filled with giants. He will bring you to the edge of the Red Sea with a chasing army thundering behind you. He'll open doors alright, but then you'll find yourself with greater responsibility, greater opportunities to need a miracle. You'll find yourself between a rock and a hard place, or in Harry's case, between the top of the stairs and a closed door.
But I would rather perilously rest against a closed door that I want to open, than to stay at the bottom of the stair and just pitifully cry and whimper for God to do something in my life. You want God to move in your life? You want a long-awaited door to open for you? REST AGAINST IT.
Fall asleep praying about your problem. Let God find you with your hand to the plow- even if he finds you asleep. Be like the widow in Luke 18 who kept asking for justice and because of her persistence, received it. Let Him find you faithful in carrying out the tasks that you CAN do, such as actually climbing up the stairs. You can do that. Even if there's a closed door at the top of the stairs, at least climb up the stairs and position yourself, in faith, at that closed door. .
You know, I'm pretty much an expert when it comes to closed doors. (Some of these closed doors never opened or still haven't opened.) I would rather be an expert on opened doors, and I pray someday I'll get there, but for now, let me tell you what I experientially know about closed doors. There are different kinds of closed doors. The kind of closed doors I want to have in my life are closed doors that could have, might have, opened, given the right timing, the right situation. But I never want to have doors that are closed because I was asking for something wrong. I don't ever want God to look at me with that knowing look that says, "Lauren, really? You want me to open a door that is actually sinful to open?" May it never be that I ask God to open a door for me that is sinful or that leads to sin.
But if we ask God to open doors that we KNOW are in His will- these are doors that lead to healing, that help others, that bless others, that use our God-given talents and gifts- then if these doors don't open, we know it's not because they're not in His general will. We know it's not because we asked wrongly. They're not against His will- they're just not in His specific will for that specific time and place. For some reason--God's reason.
Think about Joseph (in the book of Genesis), in prison, waiting for release from that dark place. He's praying for God to open the door and get him out of there- because he never deserved to be there in the first place. But circumstantially speaking, God allowed his brothers to gang up on him and put him in a pit and then sell him off as a slave. God allowed the defamation of Joseph's character when Potiphar's wife falsely accused him of rape and he wound up in prison. He wound up without any resource for deliverance, unless God opened the door for his release. His only recourse was God sovereignly, powerfully and at the right time, getting him out of prison. And GOD DID.
You have to know with conviction, when you're leaning against a closed door, that it is right for you to press against it. You have to know that you are, to the best of your conscience, asking for something good- not evil. And then once you know this, you have to entrust yourself and the door-opening to God's timing and providence. There will be some doors that don't open-- and not because you asked for something bad or sinful. And there will be some doors that eventually open, maybe after years and years of waiting. Notice the "some" the "eventually", the "maybe." Because we only know in part, we only see in part.
When I opened the door last night, I did it carefully and with the knowledge of what could happen. I knew Harry was leaning against the door and he was in a dangerous place-- he could fall and tumble down the stairs if I jerked the door open too quickly and he lost his balance. But it most certainly was my desire to open the door and let my poor sweet dog come up and be with us. Bill did not deliberately leave him downstairs in the dark as some kind of punishment. Harry, as sweet and not-very-bright as he is, hopefully knew that, even if he didn't know the particulars and how and why he came to find himself resting against the closed door.
I want to take care to consider the doors before me. I can easily rule out some that I should never try to open. And then there'll be some that I think He might want to open. And then there'll be some that have not opened for a long time, but I'm still resting at the doorstep against the closed door. I'm not afraid to wait or rest there. I'm trying to stay ready to tumble forward if it suddenly opens. And most of all, if a "great and effective door" opens to me, I know it could be sudden and scarey and it could catapult me into unknown territory in which I will need Him more than ever--and will need Him to open more doors further down the road.
But one thing I know now: God's love is in front of every closed door and behind every closed door. An opened door does NOT mean I get more love from Him. I am loved, right now, where I am--opened door or not. My shaggy bear of a dog knows this truth. He was relieved when I opened the door and he flopped forward. Then he walked over to the living room couch, jumped up, made a little nest for himself with the cushions, and promptly fell asleep. His trial of waiting was over.
I went back to bed thinking about the particulars of what just happened, envisioning myself wedged on that top slippery step, pressing up against the closed door. Maybe I identify with Harry too much! But he's such a trusting sweet dog. It was clear to him that the door would eventually open. Yours will too. And if it's not the door to your dream, if it's not the direct answer to your problem right now, there most certainly will be an open door to more grace for however long you find yourself having to wait at the top of the stairs, resting at the closed door.