When God locks doors

iStock 000007277510XSmall When God locks doorsOn Saturday, my long-awaited break finally arrived. Regular readers know that for a couple weeks now I’ve been desperate for some time to get away from it all to recharge my batteries both spiritually and physically, and that my efforts in that department kept falling through. Just when I felt like I was getting close to some kind of breaking point, my husband arranged for me to get out of the house for a couple hours on Saturday.

I was so excited I was giddy, and I knew exactly where I was going to go: our church’s Adoration chapel. Eucharistic Adoration is almost always a time when I hear God “speak” to me in a very clear way, and even on those occasions when I don’t feel his presence, I always walk away with a great sense of peace. I felt certain that this is exactly what I was meant to do with my limited free time that day.

I walked up to the Adoration chapel with a spring in my step, overwhelmed with gratitude for this free time to pray and reflect in such a sublime environment. I entered the little hallway outside the Adoration room, crossed myself with holy water, and went to open the door.

It was locked.

I tried it again. It wouldn’t budge. I peered through the window and could only see one lady who seemed to be lost in deep prayer. I jiggled the handle conspicuously but she didn’t seem to notice. I walked outside, double-checked to make sure that this wasn’t the door that they sometimes lock for security reasons, called some friends to ask if they knew of any reason the chapel would be closed, then went back in and tried the handle again. I poised my hand to knock loudly to alert someone to open the door, but then remembered that there is a reason that I am the #1 Google result for socially awkward person. Knocking might work out just fine for other people, but, alas, it would be exactly the type of thing that my husband refers to as a “Jen Moment” if it turned out that there was actually some very sacred, private event going on inside and the people whose ceremony I had just interrupted with my aggressive knocking let me in to be polite but then it was totally weird because I wasn’t supposed to be there anyway and…well, you get the idea. I stood around and agonized about it for another minute, tried the handle one more time, and walked back out into the parking lot.

I was devastated.

I know, it’s not exactly the worst thing that has happened in human history, but I was crushed by this turn of events. In addition to being exhausted after Rita’s visit, an unexpectedly high-energy retreat and all the daily chaos that comes with having four kids under age five, there had been four occasions in the previous week where it looked like I was going to get a break and then plans fell through. This was a last straw for me. Of course I didn’t have to be inside that chapel to get in touch with God, and there were other things I could have done to relax, but it had been really important to me to go to Adoration — it had even seemed like a desire that God put on my heart for a reason — and I was extremely disappointed that yet another thing had not worked out, especially for a reason as bizarre as the chapel being locked during a time when it was supposed to be unlocked.

“I give up!” I groused in God’s general direction. I was so tired and frustrated that I began to feel tears sting my eyes. I didn’t even want to do anything else. I would just sit in my car and cry exasperated tears for a moment, and then go home and sulk.

I had just fished my car keys out of my pocket when I saw a white car pull into the parking space next to mine. The doors flew open and out stepped four young nuns, in beautiful head-to-toe black and white habits. I felt a twinge of joy (I’ve mentioned before that my heart always swells whenever I see consecrated religious men and women) but quickly reminded myself that I was having a bad day and I had no time for smiling at nuns when there was so much self-pitying to be done.

I glanced at my car, just sitting there waiting for me to get in and cry, then back at the nuns. I had a vague feeling that I should talk to them…but I was soooooo not in the mood. I hesitated for a moment, then decided to do it. “Excuse me, sisters,” I called out as they began to walk away, pushing up my sunglasses so they couldn’t see that I’d been crying. “Do you guys know if the Adoration chapel is open?”

They didn’t know, but we ended up standing around and chatting for a moment. A chill ran through my body — like, I literally broke out in a cold sweat — when they ended up giving me a key piece of information regarding something I had been praying about the day before. It’s something I’m still discerning so I don’t want to go into the details right now, but suffice it to say that running into these sisters was a direct answer to a very specific prayer I had said the day before.

After we said goodbye, as I watched them walk away I glanced over at the Adoration chapel. “Could it be…?!” I thought. “No way.”

Could it be that the door was locked because I was meant to talk to those sisters? Were we meant to meet that day and God arranged for the door to be locked to stall me, because they hadn’t arrived yet? I laughed at the silliness of the thought and started for my car again. But then I stopped, turned around, and decided to give it one more try. “If that door is unlocked now…I am going to freak out,” I thought.

Back in front of the door, I crossed myself with holy water again, took a deep breath, and pushed down on the handle. There was no resistance. I pressed it all the way down in one fluid motion, and the door to the Adoration chapel swung open.

When I finally experienced the long-awaited moment of settling into a chair in the lovely, silent chapel I felt tears well up in my eyes again, but this time for a different reason. I was gushing with gratitude not just for God allowing me this time of rest and peace, but for the lesson he allowed me to learn.

As I thought about the events that had transpired out in the parking lot, I realized that the turning point of the story was not when the nuns arrived or when the door was unlocked; it was when I made the choice not to despair. I’d come so close to withdrawing into myself, erecting an impenetrable wall around me, shutting off both God and the world so that I could stew alone in my hurt and disappointment. It was only by listening to that still, small voice that told me to reach out to the sisters despite my sadness — as tempting as it was to ignore it and just go sulk in the car — that I was able to see God’s hand at work in the midst of a frustrating situation.

Of course it could all be a great coincidence — I’m not claiming to know with certainty that God directly inspired someone to get up and lock that door — but, either way, the situation taught me an invaluable lesson that I’ll carry with me always, one that I hope I’ll remember when faced with trials much larger than this minor inconvenience. Throughout my conversion I’ve thought (and written) a lot about what it means to live God’s will at each moment, even when it seems like things aren’t going your way. What I learned Saturday afternoon is that one of the most important things you can do to stay on track with where God wants you to be is simply to not give up, to reject the temptation to despair.

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Enter the Conversation...

68 Responses to “When God locks doors”
  1. Anonymous says:

    Oh my! I got chills reading this post. It always amazes me that God gives you what you need; even if you don't know that you need it!

    I also wanted to tell you that I LOVE your blog. I am very early in my conversion (I still seem to be questioning every little thing and I'm set to begin RCIA in September)and I found you in my extensive Google search of everything to do with 'Catholic' and 'conversion'!

    I just love reading your point of view and it's really helping me gain a better understanding about this journey of mine.

  2. Daniel Cox says:

    Yay God!

    Really, is there anything more to say when He does this kind of thing? OK, maybe we can say it in a "recognizable manner" – Alleluia!!!

    Reading your story made me think about my recent post REAL Food and REAL Drink. Taking nothing away from Adoration, because I've spent many long hours before God in this manner, but He is IN you. That is, when you receive Him, he is, well…one with you. Even if you hadn't been able to come before Him, you could still adore Him. Because He is in you.
    And with you, every moment.
    It's nice to look up and see the Eucharist. Very much so.
    But every time you well up in joy when you see a consecrated religious, I would suggest that their habits stir up a response similar to response to the Eucharist. They are, after all, the Body of Christ, filled with the Body of the Living Christ, living in communion with the Body of Christ.

    Of which you are part too.

    Which I realized after having been locked out of an adoration chapel once. And I didn't encounter nuns. I ate a croissant, which I lamented would go right to my belly because I am what I eat…then, BLAMMO!

    I cried in the middle of Starbucks eating my croissant and sipping my Mocha Cappuccino.

    And spent some time in adoration.

  3. Christine the Soccer Mom says:

    I am convinced that all I need to do to have a blog is just copy and paste your posts into my own.

    Thank you again and again. Your posts this month have been spot-on "me."

    Please tell me you have a deep-seated desire to come and visit me in Virginia. Please?

  4. Shylock says:

    Excellent post! Always good to hear that other people have the experience of hearing all the little signs that lead you to a place, only to have things turn out differently than you expected. Often, it turns out better than anticipated.

    Thanks for reminding me not to be worried about the outcomes! Just follow the signposts! Thanks and God bless.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Once again, I get goosebumps from one of your posts! How amazing and wonderful that you are recognizing the times that God shows up in your life! One of my fears is reaching out and talking to strangers, but many times I find that when I do step out and try it, something wonderful happens that I would have missed if I had held back…
    Thank you for sharing your journey!

  6. Clare says:

    I lurk here normally, but I had to leave a comment this time.
    I think this may be my favourite of all your posts.
    I think this 'Don't give in to despair' penny, is just, ever so slowly, starting to drop for me.
    Lots for me to think about here.
    Thank you.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I've been reading your blog for a few months. BIG fan as well, it's interesting to read your point view. Just how different people experience God but how there's something very strong connecting all of those experiences. I guess you reach a wide audience! (I'm a junior in highschool). Great Job :)

    Sofia

  8. Diana says:

    And then you wrote this post at the exact moment that some woman in California you don't even know needed to read it. Though not fully sure of all God is trying to speak to me through this, I know I was meant to find it in this very moment so I myself might listen quietly for the still small voice I know is speaking to me also. Thank you for being a blessing through your obedience first, and then your transparency.

  9. Christina says:

    "Knocking might work out just fine for other people, but, alas…I stood around and agonized about it for another minute, tried the handle one more time, and walked back out into the parking lot…I would just sit in my car and cry exasperated tears for a moment, and then go home and sulk.
    "

    Haha – this is SO me! And I definitely would have ignored those nuns, found a carton of ice cream…and totally missed a beautiful gift from God.

    I'm so glad God gave you this gift today (as well as the gift of being a good writer) for I needed a post just like this.

  10. Amy says:

    I love stories like this – LOVE! I'm very happy for you.

    I was recently torn about a situation with my older daughter. A most unlikely person walked into my office – with no appointment and no knowledge of the situation – and the ensuing conversation gave me peace.

    It's glorious when it happens.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Do you suppose that it was a coincidence when the Red Sea parted? The manna, was that coincidence? When the chains fell off Paul, coincidence? Do we believe that God no longer acts in our lives, that somehow He finished a long time ago? I have no doubt that there was something you needed to hear and in loving kindness you heard it.

  12. Heather says:

    I got a chill reading your account! How marvelous that we serve a God who cares enough about us to arrange for doors to be locked!

  13. CM says:

    Thanks for the story! I feel that I've been given that choice several times recently, pout or trust God that there's a reason for His timing. It's been a joy to start trusting Him more. I was getting really good at the pouting, but decided (after some gentle, loving- and pointed- reminders) that I should stretch my horizons more. :)

    Loved the post, and now I'm off to Adoration myself. I will pray for what your discernment process.

  14. Josephene says:

    This very much recalls what the author of He Leadeth Me hits his readers over the head with. If I trust, then everything is God's will for me.
    So happy for your experience. What a fantastic story.

  15. Anonymous says:

    I am not sure that I believe that the door was locked by God in order that you should bump into these nuns who would answer your question for you. But let me cast it in another light for you. As an introverted person myself, I understand the impulse to avoid talking to or meeting people. I've been working hard to overcome that behavior and be more social. What I have found is that nearly every time I do this, SOMEthing good comes from it. In fact, it is now the case that when I gird my loins and go forth to Socialize, and nothing "special" happens at all, I feel a sense of disappointment. I have started to feel entitled to epiphanies and valuable connections that come from other people, and I feel a bit of impatience with people who don't get this. Maybe those nuns answered one question for you, but how many questions and problems are swirling about in your life, the answers to which might be found in other people. The church teaches us that Christ is present in those around us, and also in us, for others. So don't wait for a locked door next time you think of making a new friend!

  16. christine says:

    Beautiful post.
    I don't believe in coincidences.
    I have been crunching the following from Merton's Seven Storey Mountain which I recently read:

    "I will lead you by the way that you cannot possibly understand, because I want it to be the quickest way."

    This is the quickest way?
    I must try harder to resist the temptation to despair when I realize just what a willful blockhead I must be.

    Thanks for your inspiring post. :-)

  17. Roxane B. Salonen says:

    Jennifer, I recently had a similar experience of realizing that a closed door was absolutely the best thing that could have transpired. It is so amazing when we realize God really does know more than we do — it's so humbling and beautiful at the same time. It took me longer than you to realize it, though. Instead of this becoming clear to me that very day, it took months. Beyond that, though, oh, how well I know the feeling of a mother needing a break and not getting it and feeling totally shut out. It's one of the most defeating feelings in the world. So glad both those doors opened wide for you. :)

  18. Kim says:

    Amazing!! God is so good!
    Also, I can't wait to read about the exciting new development you are discerning.
    God's Will Be Done!!

  19. Blair says:

    What a beautiful post! I started reading it earlier only to get distracted by something, but am so glad I clicked back to read it tonight. Just what I needed to hear…

  20. Beth says:

    Holy crap! Sorry but this is exactly what I thought when I read this post :)

    Were they Nashville Dominicans? I LOVE them.

    babypack.blogspot.com

  21. Bethany Hudson says:

    Wow. Just wow.

  22. Tomasino says:

    There aren't words to describe it.

    Thanks for this post, Jen.

  23. Marian says:

    God is so amazing. What a perfect observation that the key moment was your choice not to despair. Oh, how many appointments have I missed while sulking?? Thanks for sharing this.

  24. Genny says:

    This was beautiful. Some of the biggest "aha" moments in my life–some of the times I've grown the most or been inspired the most–have come directly after locked doors. Thanks for the reminder to look for opportunity and God's plan when what we want doesn't always happen!

  25. RFP says:

    Two times in two days. Thanks Jen.

  26. Rebecca says:

    God is good. He goes before us – always!

  27. Angie @ Many Little Blessings says:

    Just beautiful! I almost cried reading it. Isn't it amazing how God is constantly teaching us about how He needs us to be?

  28. Alyson says:

    Glad you were able to rest and recharge your batteries! Super post.

  29. matthew archbold says:

    Thanks for making me feel guilty Jen. When my wife gave me a break the other day I went to see a movie (District 9. It was quite good)

    But a brilliant piece. "The socially awkward" part was laugh out loud funny.

    A real pleasure to read. Thanks.

  30. Amy says:

    this is a beautiful story–thank you for sharing it.

  31. Diana says:

    What a beautiful post. Thank you for sharing it. It made me cry!

  32. Elizabeth@Frabjous Days says:

    Wonderful post.

  33. Kelly says:

    That is an amazing post that I needed to read. I'm a mommy blogger (or at least that's the label I most clearly fall under), but I've been debating starting a blog about faith and Catholicism for some time now. But let me tell you…my faith is a messy thing. The journey is constant.

    I had an experience that I too am still mulling about. I want to share it but I also want to keep it, that's how much of a gift that answered prayer was.

    Anyway, thank you. And I'm glad you got inside.

  34. Laura @ OurHouseOfJoyfulNoise.com says:

    I enjoyed reading this post about your experience, all the way through.
    It makes me wonder how often God is speaking to us, through others, or through a series of events or circumstances, and we're not even paying attention, to hear Him. We are too busy wallowing, or wrapped up in earthly ways.

  35. thegypsymama says:

    Me. Goosebumps. Too.

  36. Regina says:

    This was such a GREAT post- oh, how I needed to read it… and I do believe it was God using everything He could to show you how much He loves you- and through your posting about this, how much He loves all of us!
    Wow- I have to read this again!
    :)

  37. Rich Knight says:

    This was a good piece. Thanks for writing it.

  38. SherryTex says:

    A beautiful story. God loves to draw straight with crooked lines. There have been many locked doors in my own life lately and I wasn't pausing to figure out how these locked doors were intentional for my own benefit. Well done.

  39. Anonymous says:

    Love it!
    It's hard to convince others that maybe, just maybe, God has a hand in the little things.

    I have asked God to help me resist the sugar and yummy carbs that I crave.
    In fact, on Monday evenings when I am at work, I pull a few quarters from my wallet and buy a handful or two of Hot Tamales from the candy machines in the hallway. ( they take quarters only)
    When I was out of quarters, I figured out that I could put dimes and nickels in the soda machine… press change return and get quarters in exchange.

    So last night, I put a dollar in the soda machine, hit the change return and …… 20 nickels come pouring out!

    Very funny God. Trying to help me resist that sugary goodness aren't You?!

  40. amy h :) says:

    amazing story! thanks so much for sharing

  41. angela michelle says:

    Beautiful! Thanks for sharing.
    I'm so glad you didn't run straight to your car. And I'm glad you tried that door one last time.

  42. SimpleDad says:

    This story is so amazing. I have reached one of those dark periods where my faith seems to be empty. I keep reading your blog for inspiration. Thank you for taking time out of your day to write about your experiences.

  43. Rachelle, Mike, and David says:

    Just what I needed to hear today. Thanks for sharing those deep parts of your heart. :)

  44. betty says:

    Thank you for your wonderful , insightful blog-Betty http://geothermalquestions.net

  45. Julie says:

    Awesome post! I wish I had more intelligent thoughts to say, but I just love this!

  46. Think Pink says:

    Can I just give you a hug for your impecable timing and wonderful blog :D

  47. Anna says:

    I love the story, but…

    Why do you temper your story by saying maybe it was a coincidence? God who made the natural world works through natural ways as well as supernatural; *how* he brought about the locking of the door (whether by directly inspiring someone or not) does not matter so much as *that* he brought it about. And you can tell that he DID, by the clear and obvious effect on your heart and spirit. :)

  48. Anne says:

    http://annebender.blogspot.com/2009/08/god-incidence-at-adoration.html

    Jennifer, I am new to visiting your blog and like so many others obviously do, I love it! You write beautifully from the heart and make me want to follow suit in your love for God and your attention to His will at every moment.

    This story in particular captured my attention because I had a very similar experience this past week. The link I included at the top of this comment is my adoration story, similar to yours.

    I hope you will have a moment in your busy life to take a look at it.

    God's peace to you!

  49. monica_divineoffice.org says:

    This is a great post and the lesson behind it is even greater. Thank you for sharing!
    Liturgy of the Hours

  50. Amy says:

    Jennifer,

    I tried to figure out how to use the backlink thingy (because I linked to this post in one of my blog posts), but apparently I'm completely clueless in this area. Here's the link if you're interested…

    adoration fail, mass success

  51. Laanykidsmom says:

    I came here from Elizabeth Esther's Saturday Evening Post linkup. This was beautiful and gave me goosebumps. God speaks in the whisper of the wind, or through locked doors. Thank you for sharing this, because I often long to hear Him but can't because I am too busy listening to my own whining.

  52. Alisa says:

    I loved this the first time I read it, and again as the Saturday Evening Post. Awesome story…

  53. Dawn Farias says:

    Oh, this is excellent. I missed it the first time so I'm glad you posted it for your Saturday evening post.

    On a side note, I've always thought that it's too close to magic (or something) to think that God manipulates circumstances for our needs, I think instead that he manipulates our actions to fit into the already present physical realities that He knows are going to happen. (don't know if I explained that well, though… it makes sense in my mind.)

    Thank you for sharing that. You explained everything you felt so well I felt like it was me there.

  54. Fr. Christian Mathis says:

    Wow….thank you for the post jennifer!

  55. Trisha Niermeyer Potter says:

    This was definitely what I have come to refer to as a "God incident," when a turn of events, often contrary to what we're hoping for and have planned, opens us up to greater blessings and more grace. I recently posted something about a concept a friend taught my husband and me about fully relying on God and another post that has to do with God as the Ultimate Agenda Bender. Thanks for sharing your faith journey through writing.

  56. Colleen says:

    Great post. Thanks!

  57. Mark says:

    I am not a believer of coincidences at all – they are all the hand of God – and often when you sit down and analyse them you see that they have often carefully steered you in a very precise direction either as a test or a reward.

  58. roland says:

    I love reading your perspective and what really helps me get a better understanding of this journey of mine.

  59. Tonymang says:

    Just found your site yesterday and I absolutely love it. Your sincerity, humility and intellectual honesty come through with everything you write. I just subscribed to your blog through my google reader. I just want to thank you so much for making it available. It is really deepening my faith. I too am a former atheist and share a lot of your perspectives.

  60. evelyn says:

    Jennifer, you are heaven sent.

  61. Giovanni says:

    It’s beautiful for me to notice how the Holy Spirit can teach us great things if we watch daily life with Faith.
    In Italy we say “Se Dio chiude una porta, apre un portone” – When God closes a door, He is opening a bigger one”

    Thank you for sharing!
    Giovanni recently posted..Un’amniocentesi ha rovinato la mia vita

  62. Zaida says:

    This is helpful to me in so many ways…I feel like a door has been locked for me…the door to having more children….my athiest husband is adamant about this….but I pray and tell myself if God wants this to happen it will and if not, it wont, and its a locked door for a reason….

  63. Trish says:

    It’s the surprise visits of God that are special like this. It seems when I least expect it, I get hit with a surprise visit from God. In season and out of season, He always gives me what I need. Another lesson here or there, just letting me know, He is navigating my life where He wants, not what I want.

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