“OPEN DOOR POLICY”
May 25, 2007
“Honey, the garage door is open,” shouted my wife from the entryway of our home.
Moments earlier she had just hurried out through our front door on her way to work concerned that she might be a little late for the nine o’clock opening of her office. But as soon as she discovered the gaping aperture on the front of our house and our exposed garage she rushed back inside to inform me of the crisis. I was upstairs in our bedroom going through my morning exercise routine when I heard the disturbing news.
“Sorry to bother you but I thought you would want to know,” Babs explained. “I wish I could stay and help you close the door but I don’t have any time. Bye.”
“That’s okay,” I answered. “I’ll get it. Good bye.”
As I heard our front door slam shut I reluctantly postponed my sit-ups, threw on my warm-up jacket and headed downstairs toward the garage. The wind had been blowing fairly hard during the night and probably jarred loose the latch which was holding the garage door shut. The door is a wooden relic that was original equipment for our forty-three year old home. Over the years it has warped and sagged to the point where it no longer fits the opening. The bottom of the door scrapes the floor of the garage making it impossible to latch in the normal way. During the eleven years we have lived here we have kept it shut by using a couple of latch bolts, one on each side of the door.
A few days ago I noticed that the latch on the right side had sprung open leaving only one side left secure. Since closing the door can be a dirty, time-consuming job I opted to take care of it later. My unwillingness to promptly deal with the problem led to my being inconvenienced during my morning work out.
Closing the door is usually a two-person task requiring one on the outside to push inward on the door until the latch bolt becomes properly aligned and one on the inside fastening the latch. But I have discovered a technique that can be applied by one individual using a claw hammer for leverage. Unfortunately it involves getting dirty and running the risk of losing your life by being attacked by one of the man-eating spiders which love to hide out in the vicinity of our garage door. I shuttered at the prospect of having to face such frightening creatures so early in the day. However, there was a danger here more potentially devastating and far more serious than sinister arachnids. I am speaking of our neighbors!
No, I’m not really afraid of our neighbors, per se. I’m just terrified of having them see inside my garage! And no, I’m not all that concerned that someone would help themselves to any of the exposed contents since there is little of any value hiding there. Actually, having a few such contents end up missing would be a blessing. Confused? Allow me to explain my paranoia over an open garage door.
We have just recently finished painting the outside of our home. The ugly, pea-soup green exterior has been banished forever. For the first time since we moved here our house is a showpiece rivaling the other homes on our block and eliciting rave reviews from our neighbors. For once in our lives we are living in a home that truly sparkles…at least on the outside. The inside of our garage is an entirely different picture. From wall to wall and floor to ceiling it is packed with a universe of disorganized clutter.
Box upon box of Christmas decorations are stacked high along one wall. The opposite side is adorned with boxes of old books, camping gear and tools. Another wall is lined with the remnants of various house-cleaning, anti-clutter campaigns waged prior to past remodeling projects. Where else are you supposed to store things which you no longer have room for or may not immediately need in the house? The center of the garage is taken up by a myriad of items left over from the lives of three children who have grown up and left home, but left much of their belongings behind. Let me share a word of pessimism to those of you who are looking forward to eventually enjoying a home free of children—the empty nest is a myth!
Also taking up space in the center of our garage is a mountain of just plain junk awaiting removal by our local garbage handlers. Unfortunately, we are required to bundle our refuse, transport it curbside, and call for a specific appointment before it can be removed. Obviously none of these steps have been taken. What’s my excuse? I can’t reach the junk pile; there is too much clutter in the way!
All of this would be amusing were it not for our neighbors. As long as the garage door remains closed our home shines in freshly painted glory. But once it is opened the ugly interior is exposed for all to see. Now you know why I was willing to interrupt my morning routine and place myself in mortal danger just to close that door.
Okay, I admit it. This is nothing more than a ridiculous case of pride. I know for a fact that all of my neighbors’ garages are just as cluttered as mine for I have seen them with their doors open. Well, I must make an exception for the ones who live directly across the street from us and are actually able to park their car inside of their garage. However, I refuse to count them since I am convinced they are planetary aliens who haven’t yet discovered how garages are supposed to be used.
If we were energetic and had the time we could move the contents of our garage out onto the lawn and hold a yard sale. That way our clutter problem would then be shared by the rest of our neighbors. The problem with that scenario lies in our tendency to frequent all the other garage sales and bring home their clutter piles to add to our own. I wonder if we could form a pact with our neighbors and, in lieu of holding garage sales, just rotate the contents of each garage counter-clockwise, one address to the left once each month. After twelve such rotations we could all rent a truck together and haul everything to the dump. Since everyone would know what lies hidden in each other’s garages we could unashamedly keep our doors open for all to see.
Such an open door policy would undoubtedly lead to a very messy neighborhood, but it would do wonders for the Church and give rise to a very intimate, spiritually powerful, dynamically contagious, yet inherently messy body of Christ. Let me explain.
Once a week the Lord’s family gathers together in small groups and large, in crystal cathedrals and one room chapels, in denominational gatherings and independent congregations, in Sunday best and everyday casual, hoping to connect with the Almighty and glean some help to endure another week on planet Earth. We sit in our places in freshly painted glory, couched in our pride, searching for answers, yearning for fellowship, garage doors securely closed. As we survey the others we notice how beautiful they all look on the outside, yet we can’t help but wonder what is hidden in their garages. Is their mess as bad as ours? Are we the only ones so hopelessly cluttered with worthless things of the world?
On those few occasions when some brave soul dares to open their garage door we catch a glimpse of unbelievable squalor and shutter at the horror of it all. But in reality we know everyone’s garage is messed up, including and especially our own. So why do we spend so much time and effort fixing up the exterior knowing all the while the inside is becoming more and more repulsive? And why are we so terrified at having the wind blow open our door? The answer is, of course, pride.
God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble…Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. – James 3:6,10. Allow me to propose an open door policy for the Church. Do we not understand that God is fully aware of all the contents of our garages and that one day the doors will be flung open for all to see? Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. – He. 4:13.
Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in… – Rev. 3:20. I suggest we hold a grand opening celebration. Allow a fresh wind of God’s Spirit to shake loose the latches. Let’s fling those doors open wide and drag the contents outside. Perhaps as we see what lies in each other’s garages we can discover some unnecessary burdens we might be able to help lift. Carry each other’s burdens and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. – Gal. 6:2. For certain we will know far better how to pray for each other. And as we realize how cluttered all of our garages have grown I imagine we will become far less harsh in our criticism of one another. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. – Eph. 4:32.
But wouldn’t this make our church gatherings far less programmed, far more unpredictable, much lengthier, dangerous, and very, very messy? Why, we wouldn’t have any time left for a sermon, or announcements, or taking up an offering, or listening to a professionally trained worship band. Exactly! But our garages would become far less cluttered, our fellowship vastly stronger, and our ministries far more fruitful. Which would you prefer, leaving church feeling entertained or cleansed, with your pride intact or your burdens lifted?
Quiet! Is that someone knocking? You might want to take a look in your garage. I think the wind may have blown open your door.
Bill, a child of God, garage door open