I’ve had a few doors closed on me lately. If I’m honest, it’s more than a few, and it’s caused me to look out for new ones: new doors, new windows, new possibilities. I’m training my eyes up and out to see if I can recover the plan, if there is such a thing, and I’ve had a hard time knowing where to put my foot down to start walking.
The first door was my early childhood music teaching. When quarantine hit in March, I pivoted to online teaching a handful of students with the hope and expectation that in the fall, all would be back to normal, or at least on its way. That didn’t happen. Instead, the numbers of COVID infections have necessitated that schools take extreme precautions for both visitors and singing, and the result is that I won’t teach this fall in my many settings in the way I have for years. Maybe I’ll be able to go in remotely to some schools once they know the landscape, but for now, it’s a closed door.
Another door is the structures of my faith. When first a fire and then a pandemic hit my little chapel, I found myself without that outlet and community. In addition, our retreat house, long my spiritual home, had newly lost our beloved spiritual director, Fr. Joe, and then had to cease its programming in the wake of the pandemic. In the time since, I’ve been challenged in many ways about where I belong in my global church. I don’t recognize Jesus in the words and actions of many local and national church leaders, and I find myself looking around for the feeling of spiritual home I always had. Though I’d been aware of the glaring faults of my childhood faith for years, experiencing it without the comfort and example of the good people in my communities made it feel like a door that was closing.
Lastly, I’ve found a closed door in my writing. First an outlet for myself and then a handful of friends, I’d been encouraged to pursue publishing which I’ve done for the last several years. In this last stretch of time, there was a project that got further in the process with a particular publisher than I’d ever gotten before. It seemed like the right message for the time, and it seemed as though that dream was about to come true, when I received a message that they’d decided to pass with no explanation given. It was a closed door for sure.
What do we do with closed doors? It’s an interesting question, because I believe our response to a closed door tells us quite a lot about just who we are. Some push past them and force their way through. Others look frantically for new doors and head off in entirely new directions. Still others pause to find their center and recalibrate, trusting that new doors will appear. I wish I could say I was the latter, wish I could tell you a story about how I stopped and prayed and found new direction in the stillness, but the truth is, I got mad.
I’m not proud of it, but the feeling that everything had been taken from me became pervasive in my thinking. There was fault to find in others to be sure, and I found it. I was powerless. It wasn’t fair, and I found hope heavy to hold.
On one particularly hard day, I asked my spiritual sisters to listen to the Holy Spirit for me. I’ve done this for friends before, just praying while listening for a word or a phrase. Sometimes a color, a scripture, or an image will come to mind. One time while praying for a friend in this way, I thought of Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, and though this made no sense to me, I passed it on. She immediately received it as a message about beloved family members in Kansas.
So, while I was struggling to pray for myself, I knew these women would pray for me, and they did. I received messages of comfort and encouragement. One friend said the word ‘beginning’ came to her mind, along with a song about blessings in the broken pieces. Another had a dragonfly land on her shoulder and felt it was for me, a message about transformation and joy. My daughter shared an episode of “The Legend of Korra” which went to the heart of where I find myself these days. I got a lovely card in today’s mail reminding me that I’m held by a God who moves mountains. But maybe the most significant image I’ve received in this time is an egg yolk.
It was a passing bit of wisdom, the end of a conversation in which I was told that I was like an egg without a yolk. And it’s strange, I know, but it’s one hundred percent right. In looking for my purpose and worth in my ministries and teaching and actions and even relationships, I was neglecting my own soul, the place inside of me which provides nutrition and strength for myself and for anything else I might accomplish or do. It’s been this way for a long time, since I was a child, really. And I don’t know how to build the yolk that should just have been there in the first place, but it seems to me, this is the beginning to learning how to try.