One of the more beautiful phrases that Jesus uttered some two thousand years ago was “knock and the door shall be opened.” How much clearer can he be? All we have to do is ask. He says something similar in A Course in Miracles.
Try to pass the clouds by whatever means appeals to you. If it helps you, think of me holding your hand and leading you. And I assure you this will be no idle fantasy (W-pI.70.9:2-4).
But what happens when we knock, Jesus answers and we – not liking the answer, or being scared of the answer, or just in the habit of knocking aimlessly – just keep on going. It’s like Jesus answers and we say, “what else have you got?”
In my life, this problem stems from not making space in which to actually hear Jesus and then accept Jesus. I am often moving so fast, heeding the ego’s directives, that the still voice within is all but drowned out. In order to hear Jesus, I have to consciously slow down. I have to clear my mind as best I can. I have to remind myself to stop knocking, stop judging the answer (or seeming absence of an answer) and listen.
I’ll give a couple of examples from my own life – one of listening and one of not listening at all.
I have always been drawn to radical Christians, particularly those who put a real emphasis on social justice and peace. Could be the Catholic Worker, could be the so-called peace churches, could just be a particular activist. I like the intensity and the passion.
So for the past couple of years I’ve been reading Jesus Radicals. There is some well-informed and passionate debate over there about everything from the resurrection to the validity of intentional communities to veganism. But lately, I have been having a harder time appreciating it. I don’t feel edified or inspired by the site so much as angered. I want to argue. I’ve been drafting some responses to people’s posts and comments but not posting them myself. I am taking sides. And I get quite worked up about it.
The other morning I asked in prayer for some guidance around simplification. My life feels full and busy and intense. There was no real answer, but a few hours later when I clicked on Jesus Radicals to see the latest on the debate I was following I heard clear as a bell: You are using this site to maintain a sense of conflict in your life. You are not using it to be close to me.
And so I didn’t read the site. I just sat quietly, grateful for the clear guidance. And I haven’t been back. I’m not knocking that site, by the way. I think the men and women there are sincere and devout and I admire them. But I want to be done with conflict and that was one of the forms.
I’m glad to move on. It leaves more space to just be present to Jesus.
The other example is not so inspiring! Recently – still in that space of wanting to simplify – I woke up very early and immediately began to think of everything I had to do. I’m not as dense as I used to be so I hopped out of bed, got down on my knees and literally asked Jesus for a little guidance. In all this craziness, what do I need?
The answer was pretty immediate and clear: let’s go for a long walk. Then let’s sit together. Then let’s read A Course in Miracles.
And my response was immediate too: yeah okay that sounds nice but what about that syllabus I have to draft? And those papers I have to grade? And that class I need to outline? And those responses to students I need to finish? And this and that? Did you forget about all that Jesus? I’m not working with a trust fund here.
Do you know how this goes? I got up off my knees and walked the dog. I prayed while I walked. But when I got back, rather than settle into prayer and study, I started to work. I told myself it was just one thing – I’ll just check my emails. Then I’ll sit with Jesus. But then I decided to just work on that syllabus a little. After all, all I’m doing is clearing the slate so I can really focus on the spiritual. What’s Jesus got against me focusing?
And then before I know it the morning is gone and I haven’t prayed and I haven’t studied and I haven’t written. I’ve just buzzed like a bee trying to get honey out of a rock.
Jesus doesn’t get angry about that. If you laugh at yourself, he’ll laugh with you. I promise. Just tell yourself, “Here I go again, asking for guidance, being given the guidance, and doing my thing anyway.” It’s okay. It’s part of the process. We all do it.
And you know, coming out of that space can be very helpful – especially if you don’t beat yourself up. I look at that morning and think, what would have happened if I had trusted Jesus and just sat with him? Because that’s what happened. I didn’t trust that the work would get done. I didn’t trust that a relationship with Jesus trumps a relationship with the world. I did my own thing. And that just keeps the unhappiness and the pain going a little while longer.
When I get clear about that – see it as plain as day – then I can bring that to Jesus. We are always knocking. And he is always answering. And one day soon, we’re going to get to that place where we don’t forget it.