Thursday, May 8, 2014

Gates and Doorways

Watchword for the week of May 11, 2014:

Jesus says, “I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.” John 10: 9

When I was a very young girl, my mother worked in a most amazing building. I had no idea what she did there, but I loved paying her a visit in the impressive white-columned, dome-topped structure set squarely in the middle of Downtown.* With gold ceilings and polished stone balconies, green marble walls and peacock-hued mosaics, the building’s interior was even more stunning than its exterior. But above all the grandeur, what captivated my pre-school imagination more than anything else was the revolving door: enormous frames of dark wood surrounding mesh embedded glass panes bisected by bronze push bars I was not weighty enough to budge. If we were to make progress, Daddy would have to stand behind me in the pie-wedge compartment and push off. He would also have to tell me when to hop out, something I was afraid to do. More often than not, we would have to make several revolutions before I saved up the courage to shoot through the opening and enter the lobby. This gateway both fascinated and intimidated me, but it always beckoned.

Jesus never identifies himself as a revolving door (which is not surprising since the first one wasn’t designed until 1881), but he does use the gate metaphor to describe himself and his mission. You probably know this already, but in case not, when Jesus speaks of being a gate, he is talking about the threshold of a sheepfold. A sheepfold is a rustic, roofless, community corral where shepherds can secure their flocks while they catch a few hours of sleep. It’s really nothing more than a low-walled box with a gap in the perimeter. The gap is the entrance/exit. It has no door, per se. In order to block the gap in the wall, a shepherd stretches out across it. A shepherd becomes the door. A shepherd prevents the sheep from wandering out, and predators from wandering in. A shepherd is the entire security system. A shepherd personally takes on the risk and the responsibility of the flocks’ welfare.

If Jesus is watching the gate—being the gate—what a relief that should be to his followers! If Jesus is checking ID’s, that’s one less thing the rest of us have to worry about. If Jesus is assuming all risk and responsibility for who is in and who is out, then we can relax. Secure and unburdened from needing to judge one another, both the ones on the outside and the ones on the inside, we are remarkably free. With that freedom, we move from the protected enclosure, encouraged to wander out beyond the walls to discover nourishment and fulfillment. We are saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.

Coming and going. In and out. One reason buildings are outfitted with revolving doors is because they allow people to enter and exit efficiently at the same time. They encourage smooth traffic flow. Had Jesus ever said, “I am the revolving door,” he might have been inviting the Church to keep moving—for disciples to step inside as needed for shelter, but then to turn it around and head back out to do whatever it is that needs to be done. Had Jesus ever invoked the metaphor, he may have been teaching us that there’s nothing static about the life of a follower, that the business of transformation is one of movement and change. Had Jesus ever elaborated on this, he may have been reminding us that, although he is the door, we might need to work collectively and give one another assistance to give an extra heave in order to advance. And he might have been highlighting the truth that pursuing the life in Christ, while alluring, sometimes requires a moment of courage when it comes time to hop out.

(*Later in life I puzzled together that Mom had served on the staff of the State’s Attorney General, and that the office I admired was located inside the Wisconsin State Capitol.) 


  1. Love you description of the office building. Love remembering that Jesus is our gate. Great thoughts.

  2. Thank you, Helen. Have a beautiful day, coming and going!