One of life’s mysteries that I often find myself grappling with is the question of why certain doors that we so badly want to walk through close while unexpected ones open. Even as I write this Alexander Graham Bell’s words echo in my mind, “When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.”
In getting to grips with this question hindsight is a faithful and illuminating friend. I have found comfort in looking back on the unplanned or even unimaginable doors that had, not only opened on my path, but led me to amazing experiences that I would not trade for anything. We can plan and try our level best to figure out a foolproof plan for our lives but ultimately as Albert Einstein said, “Knowledge of what is does not open the door directly to what should be.” We see in part and know in part and thus even our best laid plans are fraught with blind spots.
There are certain people that would argue that there is no such thing as a closed door or a wall and that if we know where we are heading we should just power through the obstacles. I think that there are definitely situations in life where we need to shatter the little boxes, glass ceilings and maze walls that limit our world and the life we are living. Wisdom lies in knowing when to power through and when to wait for that other better door to open. And as we make our way through this life it is important to remember that a margin of error is inevitable. I agree with Rabindranath Tagore that one door we definitely should not shut is the one to all errors for with it truth will also be shut out.
Jesus Christ used the metaphor of doors on a number of occasions in his teaching, “So I say to you, Ask and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.” In turn he also spoke of himself as one standing and knocking on the doors to our hearts – another beautiful image – expressing a desire to build a relationship with individuals. He is, however, not the only one that comes a knocking. Chinua Achebe puts it well, “When suffering knocks at your door and you say there is no seat for him, he tells you not to worry because he has brought his own stool.”
Each of us continues on our way through a life filled with beauty, pain, mystery and the ever-present awareness that the journey we are on is not pointless. Sometimes suffering joins us – a persistent, uninvited guest – at other times we encounter doorways to unimaginable wonder. In the midst of all of it the hidden gate to eternity glimmers in our dreams and J. R. R. Tolkien’s words punctuate the hope we have, “Still round the corner there may wait, A new road or a secret gate.”