We have nightlights all over the house – down each hall, in almost every room. It’s not because we are scaredy-cats, at least not in the way you might think. We aren’t afraid of boogey men or monsters or anything of that sort. What I am afraid of, however, is something more sinister and more subtle – it lurks in the shadows, and waits for the unknowing, unaware 63-year old to meet his fate as he runs into it, full-bore in what normally is deep darkness. It strikes without warning, but the results are always the same. What is this horrible specter that seeks to cause pain and agony to the 63- year old in the house? We call it The Half-Opened Door.
Sorry to scare you like that, but I think it’s necessary to just get it all out in the open for us to talk about. I would have to go back in time to the summer of 1981, mere weeks after Cheri and I were married, and all settled into our 3rd floor, no elevator apartment. Things were going so well, and we were so in love, that the event shouldn’t probably have happened. I take some of the blame – about 5%, for not walking around with a helmet with a miner’s light switched on, but that one dark night, I got up to use the bathroom, and walked blissfully square into our bedroom door, that was half-opened. I’m not sure if I hit my nose, my knee or my big toe first, but they all joined in the pain in a moment. Oddly enough, the sound of the echoing door, along with my groans and mutterings woke my beloved bride up. “What’s wrong?” “Somebody didn’t leave the door open!” (There were only two of us in the apartment…) “Oh, I thought I would shut it a bit, since it gets noisy out in the main hallway. (At 2 am, on the third floor…) “Why didn’t you just shut it all the way?” “I didn’t want it to get stuffy…”
So began my odyssey through the land of half-opened doors. I discovered it’s possible to sort-of open almost any door, just to create an angle that should not exist in normal homes. This angle – what I call the “Killing Door” gets me almost every time. And it doesn’t matter which way the door swings – if you are walking normal speed through a doorway, and the door is occupying most of that space, whether it hits you on the edge, like that first night, or on the flat wide surface, you can be assured that noses, knees and toes will suffer as fallen comrades in this deadly door fight.
Now, I am a reasonable guy – honest. I like to use conversation and facts to create a strong argument of why things should happen in a certain way, over against, say, a way that brings the potential for pain and suffering. I spent numbers of hours with my dear wife, trying to explain that she was slowly killing me with every head trauma or knee dislocation. Her response was the same each time: “Oh I’m sorry – I just forgot.” Until the next time, which might even be that very night.
My only, and last resort was to begin purchasing and deploying night lights. The light doesn’t necessarily help me see the impending pain, but it does create a different shadow whether the door is completely open, completely closed, or simply “ajar” (a useful term when you find yourself “jarred” by the door). I’ve even found those nifty night lights that are actually a part of the outlet cover, and glow with a reassuring light.
I am still amazed, 39 years later, to have to continue the diligent work of half-open-door avoidance. We have expanded the struggle to the realization that bi-fold doors can also remain only partly open, and still create the same walking-in-the-night danger. To be honest, though, I do have to share that our cat, Hermes, since kittyhood, has found a particular skill and attraction in opening bi-fold doors, as well as all sorts of dresser drawers (we won’t get into that heartbreak), by standing on his hind legs and walking the things open. I’ll make him responsible for 10% of the problem – that still leaves 90% to you-know-who.
I’ve decided I don’t want a casket at my funeral. I’m afraid it will be left halfway open…
Of course we know that our lives are littered with potential dangers, possible pains, and the fear of meeting those headlong – or toelong – without warning or time to avoid the hurt. Some are as silly as a half-open door, but some are far more ominous, and seem to spring from the dark after us. Cancer. CoVid. Financial struggles. Emotional heartbreak. The loss of so many different things, or the fast-lane change from what we were able to trust, to a situation or a life where everything seems to come out of the shadows and try to “get us.”
Sometimes our only response is to get angry, or to fortify, or to shut ourselves off from those situations that might lead us into danger. What seems to never happen is to find joy, or even hope or anticipation of something good coming to pass. It’s then that we need to look for the nightlight. We need to find that “thing” that can help us get down the hall, and through the doorway of a scary place, and at least see more clearly, if not crystal clear where we need to go.
Jesus talked often about “light” and its place in our dark world. It was clear that John wrote in his gospel that the light has indeed come, and the darkness cannot over come it. Isn’t it interesting that Jesus also called his disciples “the light of the world.” As we follow Christ, it’s not an accident that we become the path for others to make it safely to where they need to go. Christ was intentional in giving us this critical and joyful task, of pointing out the half-open doors in others lives, and not just avoiding pain, but allowing for hope and trust to make its way to our own hearts, and those we love.
Watch where you step – be intentional out there, but more importantly, be that to someone else who needs a safe step in their own lives today.
Word for the Day: dysania. From the Greek, pronounced dis-A-nee-a. Although when defined you would think it was a teenage epidemic, but it’s more profound than that. To get to dysania, let’s first discover the word, “clinomania,” which is a mix of the Latin words, clin, meaning “bed” and mania, meaning “madness.” Someone with clinomania doesn’t just like to lounge in bed – they are maniacal about it. They will give up anything to stay in bed, for whatever reason. Hence the reference to teenagers. The difference with teenagers, of course, is that they eventually make their way out of bed to go to the kitchen and forage.
Dysania is related to clinomania in that it describes the difficulty one has to get out of bed, but not the overwhelming desire to just stay there. Dysania is part of clinomania, but again, realize it’s not just the sense of feeling groggy after a long night, or the delicious feeling of actually being able to roll over and snooze for another hour – it’s the neurotic tendency to stay in bed, and the inability to just put your feet on the floor and get going. After all – the day won’t wait for you!
And you can always take a nap later….
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.