I don’t know what your approach is to reading. Sadly, my addiction to reading (or at least the time I devote to it) doesn’t quite match my addiction to buying books. This means that I currently am reading at least eleven books (there may be others…) And waiting in the wings (ok, on the bookshelf) a further seventeen (or more) books await my attention. And I’ve accidentally bought another 4 books this week, because they were on offer.
I consider myself mightily blessed that I can afford to buy books on this sort of scale (they are part of a decent collection!). But it does mean that I do occasionally find myself getting a bit lost in the haze of concurrent reading material. One of my current reads is David Runcorn’s ‘Dust and Glory’ which is a Lent book – daily readings for Lent. I figure that’s ok to be an ongoing project, rather than a cover-to-cover sort of read. And I’ll blog about it in the not-too-distant future. But one book that’s a relatively recent addition to the ‘current reads’ has been accelerated through the process, and I finished it this week. It’s a book that Mum gave me and Anna. It’s by John Ortberg and is called, ‘All the Places to go: How will you know?’
It comes at a time when I’m taking some hesitant steps in the general direction of ordination (being a priest!). Initial steps are simply a sort of ‘discernment’ process – they’re not exactly signing on the dotted line!
It’s basically all about doors. Which perhaps doesn’t sound all that promising, if you’re not all that into doors. But it’s a fantastic book. It considers doors as part of the journey. It considers the difficulties of passing through doors, and of finding doors firmly closed. It encourages both persistance and patience. It whispers hope and challenges movement. It’s funny. It’s real. It presents some of the myths and fears we might have about doors. Should I, or shouldn’t I? What if I choose the wrong door? What’s on the other side? I suspect it’s the sort of book that would be great for anyone, but perhaps particularly for those who are considering particular ‘doors’ in their lives. For us, that door is ordination. Should I, or shouldn’t I. Or perhaps more realistically, should we or shouldn’t we?
There’s plenty in the book that’s encouraging. Doors that seem obvious might not be right. Choosing the ‘wrong’ door is not necessarily the end of the world (unless there’s a big red button with ‘nuclear strike’ behind the door in question…) It’s written with humour, for example:
A man I know was once convinced that a woman he was obsessed with was God’s choice for him. The ultimate confirming sign for him came when he heard a song that made him think of her on the radio and prayed that if she really was “the one” that God would make the same song play on another radio station, and the same song did play on another radio station. However, clearly he was wrong, because she married someone else. Plus, it was a song by Village People, and I don’t think even heaven could use that.
I think my favourite chapter is the one titled “Thank God for Closed Doors”. He talks about the struggles of unanswered prayer: the pain of unhealed suffering, the anguish of unchallenged injustice, the times when heaven seems resolutely silent, or worse, heartless. Within this chapter is a very moving section headed, ‘God Knows about Closed Doors’. Ortberg movingly writes of a God who stands at the door and knocks. A God who longs to be welcomed into our lives, and yet finds Himself left out time and time again. “So we stand with him in our pain at the closed door.”
And he reminds us of Jesus’ prayer in the garden:
… at the heart of the gospel is an unanswered prayer. Jesus, kneeling in the garden, prayed, “Father, if it is possible, may this cup, this suffering, this death be taken from me. Yet not my will, but yours be done.”
This is the most desperate prayer ever prayed from the most discerning spirit that ever lived, from the purest heart that ever beat, for deliverance from the most unjust suffering ever known. And all it got was silence. Heaven was not moved. The cup was not taken from him. The request was denied. The door remained closed.
What would we do without closed doors?
I’d heartily recommend this book. Not just for those who are facing changes and particular ‘doors’, though it is certainly something I’ve found immensely useful at such a time. And now that I’ve blogged about it, I think I might go back and read the closed doors chapter again. It really is worth it.