How to Find Your Open Doors

Baffled, I stared at 30 kindergarteners milling around my classroom.  For the second time, I said, “Okay, everyone, let’s sit down in a circle together.”  Six children sat near me, sort of circle-ish, although one sat behind me, for reasons known only to him.  A dozen students plopped down at various points in the room, not near me.  The rest continued to mingle and chatter.

Just as I feared I’d need to place each child, bodily, into a circle, another teacher walked by and heard my dilemma. “Need some help?” she offered with a smile.

“Yes, pleeeeeeeease.” Humbled, I welcomed her into the room.  I mean, good grief, my second day of teaching elementary music and I couldn’t even get 5-year olds into a circle!

“Most of them don’t know that command yet, so we use a few tricks of the trade.” With that, my rescuer grabbed some yarn from her classroom and came back to create a circle on the floor. She invited all the children to sit on the yarn.  The whole process took 3 minutes.  This experience became the first in a looooong list of reminders I accumulated that year, that God did not endow me with elementary teaching gifts.

When I returned to the teaching field, after a 20-some year absence, all doors remained closed except for the one above. I never aspired to educate young children. Truthfully, I endured my mornings with them during my student teaching semester. I much preferred my afternoons with high schoolers.  Even knowing this about myself, I decided that since this door opened, God must be on the other side.  I spent a tough year learning that every opportunity doesn’t come from our Father.

As we think about God’s will, and discovering our open doors, consider a few misguided folks from the Bible.  Abraham committed adultery with Hagar because of a crazy plan hatched by his barren wife, Sarah.  Must be okay if the wife says so, right?  Wrong.

In I Samuel 13, King Saul is nervous before a battle. The prophet, Samuel, is late to perform his priestly duties before Israel marches out.  As King Saul’s troops become restless, he interprets Samuel’s tardiness as an open door for him to make a sacrifice himself.  This act is in direct disobedience to God’s commands. The result is that God sets aside Saul as King of Israel, in favor of David, “a man after God’s own heart.”

Ponder Samson’s popularity and favor with Philistine women, ultimately leading to his torture, enslavement and death. What about Judas’ partnership and open door with the religious leaders who orchestrated Jesus’ crucifixion? The entrance to that viper’s nest opened wide for the traitorous disciple.

Not every wrong door will lead us into profound sin, but at the least, they will waste our time and energies on pursuits and people that don’t line up with God’s destiny for us.

How do we avoid becoming entangled with opportunities that don’t originate with God? Here’s some filters that I use:

 

  • Don’t ignore a lack of peace or conversely, God’s distinct call for you.

I felt weird about committing myself to educate little kids, and I blew it off.  In general, the Holy Spirit doesn’t shout.  A quiet voice kept speaking, “This is not for you,” to me, but I ignored it because I wanted to do something.  It turned out to be something alright.

When God leads us somewhere, we wear the shoes of peace with confidence. There is blessing, provision and favor in the right place, even during persecution and personal attacks.  (Read Nehemiah’s story.)   We might feel anxiety, like Gideon, when He calls us to do works much greater than our imaginations, but that shouldn’t be a dominating sensation.  I like to think about it as a bride and groom preparing for their wedding.  They may feel nervous about the details coming together correctly, but that shouldn’t change their certainty that they belong together.

This last weekend I attended my first writer’s conference. I’m a newbie in that world and although the retreat, speakers and fellow learners were outstanding, my primary takeaway was this: “So, there’s a thousand things I need to know, and do, to be a successful writer.  I think I might know five and be doing three.”  I felt overwhelmed by the new language, social cues and sheer body of information.

Like Gideon, part of me started to say, “This must be a mistake.  There are thousands of people better skilled and equipped to write than me.”  As soon as I started to form those thoughts, God’s sweet voice said, “That may be true, but they don’t know your stories and hard-learned lessons.  I’ve got plans for you.”

 

  • Take note of God’s patterns in your life.

Look back over the times you’ve walked through doors that led you into relationships and circumstances clearly blessed by God.  What did that look like?  Everyone’s path will be unique, but if you look at several examples, you’ll see a pattern.  Consider how you arrived at places where you are celebrated, not just tolerated.

 

One of the major criteria for me, is obedience.  When I am in a mindset of “wherever you want me with whomever you want me, Lord,” is when I’ve entered those most meaningful experiences of my life.  This is not to say that I didn’t endure trials and hardships in those places and relationships, but God provided me with all the resources I needed to carry on and fulfill his purposes for me.

 

I met my husband Ken, shortly after I laid my dreams of marriage definitively on the altar of “not my will but yours, God.”  My favorite teaching job came to me when I laid those dreams back at the foot of the cross also.

God wants you to know his destiny for you, and all the open doors along the way.  Intimacy with him, submission to his methods and obedience to his instructions, are the best ways I’ve found my open doors and moved past the ones closed to me.

 

 

When God Closes Doors

Everyone experiences slammed doors, either symbolically or literally.  When easy access to something or someone stops, it hurts. We grieve what used to be.  When an entrance to something new is unexpectedly blocked just as we are about to walk through, the disappointment can level us.  We grieve the loss of the life we imagined might exist on the other side.  In those halting moments, people may say things like:

“Sorry, not interested.”

“You and me? We’re through.”

“Your services are no longer required.”

“I’ve found someone new who makes me happy.”

“We decided to go a different direction with this position.”

“Family gatherings just aren’t my thing anymore.”

“You’re actually over-qualified for this job.”

At times, people firmly shut us out of their lives, organizations or businesses and say

nothing

at

all.

People reject us for a variety of reasons but without explanation, our imaginations can run crazy.  I remember one job I felt certain belonged to me. When I didn’t make the final cut, it surprised me. I called and inquired why.  Turns out, the other final candidate possessed two more years’ experience than myself. That became the tie breaker. (Wish they’d shared that on the first phone call.)  Knowing that helped somewhat, but I still lost the wind in from my sails.

When we are vetoed, Satan seeks to direct our responses. After the initial blow, our own insecurities and our enemy whisper negative ideas to us that contradict God’s written Word and the plans he’s spoken to us personally.

“This is probably a stupid dream anyway.”

“Who would ever want someone like me?”

“I’m too old to keep doing this….”

“Things will never work out for me.”

“I can’t keep hitting my head against closed doors.”

“I’m not _________________ enough.” You fill in the blank.

 

I love the word picture about open and closed doors which F.B. Meyer creates in his book, “Paul, A Servant of Jesus Christ.”

“Be not afraid to trust God utterly.  As you go down the long corridor you may find that He has preceded you and locked many doors which you would have entered; but be sure that beyond these there is one which He has left unlocked. Open it and enter, and you will find yourself face to face with a bend of the river of opportunity, broader and deeper than anything you had dared to imagine in your sunniest dreams.”

I don’t want to forfeit the best God designed for me because I’m loitering outside of closed doors.  Far better for me to keep looking for the ones that are opened wide in welcome, even when they don’t seem to be the kinds of opportunities and relationships which I imagined.  As a professional daydreamer, I confess I’ve spent too much time in fantasies of what might be instead of developing my intimacy with the great I AM who knows what he destined me to be.

As we seek our wide paths, here are a couple more suggestions (the first two are in post one of this series) for knowing where they are.

  • God’s will is discovered in God’s presence.

In Exodus 36, we learn about the physical symbols God used to indicate his presence to the Israelite nation.  If they wanted food, shelter, safety and victory over their enemies, they needed to follow the Cloud during the day and Pillar of Fire by night.  Those who didn’t, became lost and died or captured, we can presume.

 

Some Christians spend their days chasing desires and asking God to bless them.  Can you imagine the Israelites telling God where they were going and assuming the Cloud or Pillar would follow dutifully?  Exactly.  We will find our paths and our purposes when we do what Jesus commanded in Matthew and seek his kingdom first. That doesn’t simply mean doing your devotionals in the morning, then running your own show the rest of the day.

 

Just as the Israelites lived under the Cloud and Pillar of his presence, so too we must go about our days with that inner consciousness.  We stay in step with him, not the other way around.  When we are sensitive and soft-hearted towards him, he will tell us immediately when we’ve wandered away from him through carelessness or sin.  If we grieve or quench the Holy Spirit inside of us, it becomes difficult for God to guide us.  Imagine the Israelites staring at the desert floor all day instead of keeping their eyes on the sky.

 

  • God opens doors which match your gifts, talents, experience and nature.

All the Apostle Paul’s early years prepared him to become the man we know through his many books.  His Roman citizenship, Jewish birth, education, hometown, relationships, experience in the synagogues, eloquent speaking technique all opened doors of opportunity for him, which were closed to others.

The same is true of you.  If, you walk intimately with God, then everything which precedes this moment is preparing you for future assignments.  For example, once I finally cracked my way into the education sphere, I thought that might be my world for many years.  Not so.  God used that season to awaken my dormant writing skills, to bring me here, to you.   The discipline I developed to write hundreds of lesson plans back then is now what keeps me writing at my computer these days.

As you seek your next open door, don’t be afraid to journey past closed ones.  It’s all part of the process of fulfilling our destinies.