Awakening Open Door

Which Door, God? Awakening to the Open Door

by Rev. Doug gray

     It all began with an open door and perhaps a sense of humor. What did God say when God came to Abram and Sarai? John Ortberg wonders if God said it like Dr. Seuss,

     Abram and Sarai, today is the day!
     So get your dad, Terah, and get on your way.
     You will wander like nomads, and I even think maybe
     You might have a nonagenarian baby.
     You’ll be marked by your faith, you’ll be marked by a vision,
     You’ll be marked by (you might not love this) circumcision.
     Like stars in the sky your descendants will be,
     Though you will tell lies indiscriminately.
     You’ll get lost and confused and be badly afraid.
     You will wait till quite late and mistakes will be made.
     You won’t know what to say, you won’t know what to do,
     But all peoples on earth will get blessings through you.
     With your muddled-up faith you’ll do more than you know,
     And I promise you this:  Oh the places you’ll go!

Oh, the Places You’ll Go! Do you know that book? It’s one of my favorites by Dr. Seuss. [2] It’s often given to people who have graduated from something—high school or college for example—or people that are entering a time of transition. Of course, one of the reasons I really love the Bible is that it also speaks to people who face open doors or are entering a time of transition, and our passages for today have so much to teach us that will help us awaken to the open door before us.
     First, the door is as open or closed as the people who face it. Dr. Carol Dweck wanted to study how people’s mindsets affected the way they faced challenges. One of her studies involved ten-year-olds and math problems that got harder and harder. As the students began to fail, most started getting down on themselves. That’s what we might expect. Some had a very unexpected approach. Ortberg writes, “One kid—in the face of failure rubbed his hands together, smacked his lips, and said, ‘I love a challenge!’ Another kid, failing one math problem after another, said, ‘You know I was hoping this would be informative.’” [3] How we see the challenge before us can determine whether or not it’s a closed or an open door. A closed mind-set believes what I have is all there is, if I can’t do it perfectly, I may as well not begin, that there is always a winner and a loser, that there is only so much to go around—it’s afraid of what could be lost. “Those with an open mindset,” Ortberg writes, “believe that what matters is not raw ability; what matters is growth…A commitment to growth means…the goal is not trying to look smarter or more competent than other people. The goal is to grow…” If we face a challenge open to how God wants us to be and become, then we will find the open door.
     Second, an open door often comes with doubts. Ortberg imagines Abram responding in rhyme to God:

     Where are these places you want me to go?
     When will I get there? How will I know?
     Will I need a design? Will I need a degree?
     Will I need other things that you’re hiding from me?
     Where is the map of your plan for my life?
     I must know all this stuff. I must talk to my wife.
     I’m old. I’m not bold. And you’re leaving things out.
     There are bales of details you must tell me about.

We have doubts because we can’t see it all. We want more information, more certainty, more control. Lots of people of faith had doubts—Noah built a ship in the desert, Abram was 75 when he left Ur, Moses thought he wasn’t a good speaker, David and Jeremiah said they were just kids, Isaiah thought he wasn’t good enough. Doubts are a normal part of faith. When I talk with couples before they get married, I like to talk about marriage like a walled garden with a small gate at one end. Before we get married, we can look in through the gate, and we can see some things about what being married is like, but we can’t see the whole garden. Not until we actually promise ourselves to each other and bind ourselves to each other as a couple will we be able to go into the garden and see it for ourselves. Somehow, those who get married, find a way to let the doubts be swept away by love or adventure or some mixture of the two. In the same way, God doesn’t expect us to get rid of our doubts, but to trust God anyway. Ortberg writes, “Jesus doesn’t say, ‘Go, you’re ready.’ He says, “Go, I’ll go with you.” [5]
     Finally, God chooses us not for our track records, but for our hearts. Abram and Sarai are far from perfect. If we were to keep reading in Genesis today, the next scene we would find Abram afraid that the king in Egypt will kill him to get Sarai, so he lies about their relationship…and 25 years later he does the same thing! Really, Abram? The second time she’s 90 for God’s sake! Over and over again, Abram gets it wrong—but over and over again, Abram is willing to trust God’s promises, and Abram responds with gratitude. That gives me great hope! Because you and me, we can always get it wrong. We can miss the boat, say things we wish we could take back, even betray the people we love, and God will always be glad to welcome us home. Tim Keller writes, “It’s not the quality of our faith that saves us…It’s the object of our faith.” [6] God is bigger than our faith. God is bigger than our past. More than anything we have done, God wants us to learn to trust God more, to let our lives revolve around God’s promises.
     We hear all the amazing promises—that God will always love us, that God will never leave us, that when we walk with God we will have power beyond ourselves, that those who live as Jesus did have a life beyond this one, that God will bless the world through us—we hear these amazing promises, but we wonder whether they could be real. Of course, the power of the promise is that it helps us look forward to a time we cannot see yet, a time when the promise will come to pass and the dream will come true. It’s not a promise if you can tell it’s going to happen! The power of a promise is that it draws us through the open door into a future we cannot see, like Abram and Sarai going to a land they did not know, to have children they could not imagine, to become a nation they would never see…and still they went. The power of a promise is that it shapes our lives as we make choices so that our lives revolve around that promise. Together, God’s promises and our lives dance around each other, the incredible dance of a life of loving and serving, trusting and giving. We count the cost, and trust the promise, knowing that in us the promises will grow to become true for the next generation. Awakened to the open door! Oh, the places we’ll go!

1. John Ortberg, All the Places You Go: How Will You Know? (2015), pp. 14–15.
2. Theodore Geisel, Oh, the Places You’ll Go! (1990).
3. Ortberg, op.cit, pp. 22–23.
4. Ortberg, op.cit, p. 19.

5. ibid, p. 29.
6. ibid, p. 52.