Our heart knows when it’s time to say “no” or “goodbye” or even “yes.” But if we listen to it, it most-often means we are required to close a door. And we don’t want to. Maybe something will change. Maybe he’ll change. Maybe she’ll change. Maybe there’s a lesson here for me. Maybe I’m not ready. Maybe I’m just being selfish. Maybe I shouldn’t go…just…yet. To close the door, turn our back, and walk away requires movement out of ambivalence and often, if not always, into pain.
And so, of course, we resist. To close the door ushers us right across the threshold of feeling loss, feeling grief, feeling, period. Admitting disappointment or harm or unresponsiveness. Naming our own self-contempt-based patterns. Dredging up stories and scenes and themes we thought we’d buried, at worst; worked through, at best. As long as we stay in a place of maybe or I’m not sure or just a little bit longer we do not have to be completely subsumed by the emotions that wait just under the surface: that lump in our throat, those tears that brim, the pressure in our chest.
Like most, I’m not a fan of this place—or of pain. But I
have learned am learning that disallowing it slows me down, holds me back, and ultimately hurts me more. The bargains and deals and wishes within may be helpful devices to weigh pros and cons, to enable reflection and rhetorical questioning, to analyze repetitive behaviors; but ultimately, all of these, if prolonged, are smoke screens; futile attempts at anything other than having to feel the finality of that lock turned and the deadbolt fastened.
Because it is so real, pain is an available antidote to unreality—not the medicine you would have chosen, perhaps, but an effective one all the same. ~ Barbara Brown Taylor, An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith
Pain is our closest friend, whether we like it or not; the ally we need if we hope to find and open the door before us. It is evidence and marker that we have been willing to close another. It is the place in which there is no doubting our heart: its affect and sentiment clear. And clear, albeit hard, is good.
So once closed, then what? Now what? How long? These are the questions we ask; the ones we sought to avoid. I have no answers. (And anyone who tells you different is lying.) I have no timeline. I have nothing…other than this: just stay. As much as you long to move past closed doors and the endless unknown, it’s the threshold that calls. This is where you must reside. For now.
and see what comes
the gaping hole
in your chest.
Wait with your hands open
to receive what could never come
except to what is empty
~ Jan Richardson, from “Stay“
One day you will feel your heart’s healing. One day you will look up instead of down. One day you will sleep more deeply. One day you will breathe more slowly. One day you’ll know more laughter than tears. One day faith will sustain. One day hope will return. One day love will beckon. One day you will know…
And on that day, probably when you least expect it, you will see it: the door before you. And you will be ready. You will step forward, reach out, turn the knob, and step right through. Into the light. Into the open. Into the new. Head held high, shoulders back, radiating the glory that is you when fully alive, awake, aware. With a tender and ferocious heart that is raw, but strong.
You cannot know it now,
cannot even imagine
what lies ahead,
but I tell you
the day is coming
when breath will
fill your lungs
as it never has before
and with your own ears
you will hear words
coming to you new
You will dream dreams
and you will see the world
ablaze with blessing.
~ Jan Richardson, from “Stay“
Just not yet.
I’m “preaching to the choir” in this post. I wrote it for myself: resisting-but-feeling all the pain that a middle space brings. I wrote it for you, quite certain that you have been here before…are here now…will be again. And I wrote it to remind us both that we are not alone; that we are companioned by one other, that we journey alongside amazing souls who have gone before, that we are buoyed by an unshakeable belief that we will yet rise, yet walk, yet fling open doors into more truth, more beauty, more life, more love, more awareness of an ever-present, ever-faithful, ever-loving God.
I’m convinced that closed doors—whether by self or others—are what expose and enable the open ones; those that (eventually) invite expansive freedom, deep(er) wisdom, and exquisite life. Just not yet. So stay here. On the threshold. I’m with you.
If you are right in the thick of a threshold, you can take an online retreat with me, Christine Valters Paintner, Trish Bruxvoort Colligan, and Dana Reynolds. We’ve created Women on the Threshold: The Wild Heart of Longing because we know these places, because we love the stories of others who do, because we want to walk with you into and through yours. Learn more.
And of course, if you haven’t had a chance to watch my TEDx Talk on Eve, I’d be honored if you would. She has known so many closed doors, traversed so many thresholds, and opened infinite pathways to brand new worlds in bold and powerful ways. Meet her. Share her. Allow her to be known.Share
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