For a few months last year, the church I pastor practiced pausing at “thresholds” throughout the week. Each time we came to a doorway, we were asked to pause, to become aware of our leaving one place and going to another and to prepare for the shift by asking ourselves: how do I want to show up where I am going? what do I need in order to show up in this way?
As I began to practice this pausing, I realized just how many thresholds we cross every day. It’s no wonder our welcome mat wears out so quickly! We are constantly coming and going, always leaving one place and going to another.
This doesn’t only happen in our daily rhythms. It happens to each of us as seasons, ministries, jobs, relationships and families change. We leave the place we had grown comfortable and enter a new phase, which almost always requires change – some can be exciting, some not so much. As parents of a recent college graduate who has left the nest, my husband and I know this experience all too well.
We get glimpses of the inevitability of change throughout the story of Scripture. People move, give birth, face death, confront loss and even change their names and identities. The post-resurrection Johannine community forming the context of these “I am” statements of Jesus was no different. Not only had the center of their religious life been destroyed, but their community makeup had shifted and they were experiencing division and conflict. All of this upheaval brought a crisis of identity.
Who are we in this new place and who is Jesus here?
That question feels familiar. As we experience the still-unfolding story of Christianity and leave the confines of what church has been, I experience us asking something similar. How do we talk about, preach about, sing about and share about faith now? Who is Jesus in a culture that has either dismissed him, used him to do harm or dwindled him down to something trinket-sized?
One response given by Jesus was “I am the door”, but he wasn’t just talking about any door. He was comparing himself to the opening that both led sheep out to pasture (where they were fed, but also vulnerable to prey) and back into safety for the night. Whether going out or returning, the point of this door was to be a passageway leading to life. Doorways are not meant to be objects of our worship as much as they are intended to be openings we walk through even though we may not always be sure what lies on the other side.
In his most recent book, On the Brink of Everything, Parker Palmer tells what it’s like to enter the last part of life. He wonders why most of the time “on the brink” elicits negative connotations, and writes, “Perhaps it’s because, deep in the reptilian brain, we’re afraid of falling from heights or crossing boundaries into the unknown. But isn’t it possible that we’re on the brink of flying free, or discovering something of beauty, or finding peace and joy?”
Life is always on the other side of the door or brink it seems, which means if we never move, we’ll miss it. Pausing to remember where we’ve been and to prepare for where we’re headed is a good practice, but we should be careful not to get stuck standing there too long.
The Door wants to lead us to more life, which will inevitably require us to leave whatever is keeping us bound up behind. In whatever changes, crossroads, or thresholds you are encountering in life or ministry, what life awaits on the other side? Can you imagine it? What might you need to leave behind in order to step toward the growth, the goodness, and the new possibility that awaits?
“I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”
Rev. Susan Rogers grew up in Jacksonville and graduated from Terry Parker High School and the University of Florida. After working as an occupational therapist for 9 years, she pursued vocational ministry and moved to Atlanta to attend seminary. She is a graduate of McAfee School of Theology (2008) and served at Peachtree Baptist Church in Atlanta before returning to Jacksonville, FL in 2010.
Susan started The Well at Springfield through a generous partnership with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Florida. Susan is passionate about creating authentic spiritual community & re-imagining new ways of being church.