Two thousand years ago Jesus’ frightened disciples closed the doors while they heatedly discussed the fantastically unbelievable story of Jesus’ resurrection. There’s nothing new about closed doors. I don’t remember ever seeing my grandfather’s front door open. Everyone went down the side path and in the back door. Teenagers stick “Do Not Enter” notes on theirs. Australia’s government keep our nation’s door firmly shut against desperate people who arrive illegally.
Experiences, all kinds of experiences, are a bit like doors. We can open up our lives and imaginations to what is happening, or we can lock disturbing people and occasions behind the closed doors of our memory. If I had been in Jerusalem during the heady days of Jesus’ popularity, then seen him executed by the ruling authorities I’m not sure that I would have believed the stories circulating about him being back and in physical contact with his followers. I’d probably have filed it away as a very disturbing experience and got on with life.
That’s what many men who fought in the wars last century did. They came home and closed the doors of their minds and hearts on the horrors and inhumanity of war. Year by year Anzac Day reminds us of the sheer futility of war as a way to solve conflict. The ritual, the media coverage, the way we respond in spite of our feelings about such a celebration, has the power to open us out to prayer.
As we age we have the life experience and time to become more reflective. Opening the door on the story of one’s life is not necessarily a dry run of life-defining events for a “This Is Your Life” experience. Much of the material that surfaces can seem insignificant, just snapshots of moments locked away in our memory. They surface because they need to get out and we need to listen to the story they can tell us.
The sound of a crow always takes me straight back my teaching days at Santa Teresa, an Aboriginal settlement outside Alice Springs. It was a difficult posting for me and for years whenever that cawing bird activated my memory of a dry, inhospitable landscape, I told it to go away. Eventually I let myself re-visit that time and recognised that even though the landscape was still very alien to me it had a beauty that had been closed to me because I refused to recognise it.
There are some who would argue that mulling over the past is not only time wasted but it is somehow selfish. They consider it unhealthy to revisit experiences or occasions that are in the past. Exploring personal stories has the power to bring understanding, healing and wisdom to something that we had thought was over and done with. It might be painful, it will probably be enlightening. It might be so personal and private that you never speak of it to another. But if we open the doors into our life experiences, if we invite God into them, then our stories turn into prayer.