Standing by the Door

The sermon this week was based on this reading from Luke 13:

He said to them,  “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to.  Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’

It reminded me of this favorite poem, written by Sam Shoemaker.  He was the rector of Calvary Church in New York City, where he also served as Frank Buchman’s  head of Oxford Groups in America. In his position of religious influence he helped many come closer to a moral and religious life, most notably Bill Wilson, one of the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous. If you are interested in learning more about Same Shoemaker,  you might want to read the biography written by his wife, Helen and also entitled I Stand By the Door.  

I Stand at the Door

By Sam Shoemaker (from the Oxford Group)

I stand by the door.
I neither go to far in, nor stay to far out.
The door is the most important door in the world –
It is the door through which men walk when they find God.
There is no use my going way inside and staying there,
When so many are still outside and they, as much as I,
Crave to know where the door is.
And all that so many ever find
Is only the wall where the door ought to be.
They creep along the wall like blind men,
With outstretched, groping hands,
Feeling for a door, knowing there must be a door,
Yet they never find it.
So I stand by the door.

The most tremendous thing in the world
Is for men to find that door – the door to God.
The most important thing that any man can do
Is to take hold of one of those blind, groping hands
And put it on the latch – the latch that only clicks
And opens to the man’s own touch.

Men die outside the door, as starving beggars die
On cold nights in cruel cities in the dead of winter.
Die for want of what is within their grasp.
They live on the other side of it – live because they have not found it.

Nothing else matters compared to helping them find it,
And open it, and walk in, and find Him.
So I stand by the door.

Go in great saints; go all the way in –
Go way down into the cavernous cellars,
And way up into the spacious attics.
It is a vast, roomy house, this house where God is.
Go into the deepest of hidden casements,
Of withdrawal, of silence, of sainthood.
Some must inhabit those inner rooms
And know the depths and heights of God,
And call outside to the rest of us how wonderful it is.
Sometimes I take a deeper look in.
Sometimes venture in a little farther,
But my place seems closer to the opening.
So I stand by the door.

There is another reason why I stand there.
Some people get part way in and become afraid
Lest God and the zeal of His house devour them;
For God is so very great and asks all of us.
And these people feel a cosmic claustrophobia
And want to get out. ‘Let me out!’ they cry.
And the people way inside only terrify them more.
Somebody must be by the door to tell them that they are spoiled.
For the old life, they have seen too much:
One taste of God and nothing but God will do any more.
Somebody must be watching for the frightened
Who seek to sneak out just where they came in,
To tell them how much better it is inside.
The people too far in do not see how near these are
To leaving – preoccupied with the wonder of it all.
Somebody must watch for those who have entered the door
But would like to run away. So for them too,
I stand by the door.

I admire the people who go way in.
But I wish they would not forget how it was
Before they got in. Then they would be able to help
The people who have not yet even found the door.
Or the people who want to run away again from God.
You can go in too deeply and stay in too long
And forget the people outside the door.
As for me, I shall take my old accustomed place,
Near enough to God to hear Him and know He is there,
But not so far from men as not to hear them,
And remember they are there too.

Where? Outside the door –
Thousands of them. Millions of them.
But – more important for me –
One of them, two of them, ten of them.
Whose hands I am intended to put on the latch.
So I shall stand by the door and wait
For those who seek it.

‘I had rather be a door-keeper’
So I stand by the door.

Twelve Steps for Relationships

I’ve mentioned before that although I am not in a 12 step program, I greatly admire and think everyone could learn from them.  Recently I was looking at the steps, and I realized that like the Ten Commandments, they are all about having a right relationship with God and with others.  Here they are:

  1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol–that our lives had become unmanageable. (Note:  substitute here sin in general and we all have this problem)
  2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. (In other words, God is God, and we’re not.)
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him. (Giving God His rightful place in our lives, being in right relationship with Him)
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. (Christians call this an examination of conscience)
  5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs. (This would be confession)
  6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
  7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
  8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.  (Now we are getting to our relationships with others)
  9. Made direct amends to such people whenever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
  11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God (keeping our relationship strong) praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message(read Good News) to alcoholics (read sinners) and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

The 12 step programs succeed because they teach the importance of putting our relationships in order.  First must come our relationship with God.  We must accept that God and His will must take first place in our lives.  Then we must confess our sins against Him and against our fellow humans and take responsibility to correct things.  Finally, we must acknowledge that this is no quick or one-time fix … we must be constantly vigilant and work at our relationships continually AND we must help others by passing along what we have learned.

It’s humbling and also enlightening to read through these steps.  As Christians, we all admit we’re sinners, but are we willing to admit that we are POWERLESS over sin without God? (We really don’t like to think of ourselves this way) Are we ready and willing to ask God to REMOVE our shortcomings? (I think there are lots of sins we like to hold on to).  We may confess every week in church, but do we honestly make efforts to MAKE AMENDS to the people we’ve injured? (Personally, I’d rather try to ignore my bad behavior and hope everyone will eventually forget it) Do we really try to CHANGE AND IMPROVE our relationships with God and others?  (Or are we too lazy to make that effort).  Do we CARE enough about other people to pass the gospel on to them? (If we really believe in it, we should).

This gives me a lot to think about.  How about you?