Life is a hallway of doors.
You take one step forward. Then another. You see a door. Knock on it. It opens? Go through. Doesn’t open? Move on. Your job is not to force any door to open, not to freak out about which door opens or doesn’t, but to trust God—and put one foot in front of the other.
It seems so simple, but really it’s not. At least not for me.
I let a gazillion little worries buzz through my brain and I give all those worries too much thought time. They’re like a cloud of insects, a swarm of dust.
It seems so easy—“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight” Proverbs 3:5-6. But it’s not. Because we make it so complicated. We pile on our experience, our fears, our insecurities. And all of a sudden we’re either paralyzed, collapsed in front of a closed door, weeping, wanting to give up, destitute, depressed. Or we’re sprinting down the hallway or throwing our weight aimlessly at doors, crashing through them or trying to wedge them open with all our weight.
This year, I set out on a new career adventure. I’ve wanted to be a journalist ever since I was a kid, but I was always haunted by the idea that I couldn’t do it. That I wouldn’t be talented enough, good enough.
When I became a mom, God gently directed me away from outside career pursuits. My husband was the pastor of a small church where all hands were needed on deck, so I spent a decade learning how to serve, how to give, how to sacrifice, how to parent. That’s where God really coached me through the “hallway of doors” metaphor.
At 22, I had been an uber-young mom, clueless about cooking and cleaning. The only thing I had known how to do well was write papers and take tests. I was good at school. Life? Not so much. Grocery store trips were daunting. Doing taxes was daunting. Cleaning the bathroom was an infinite, impossibly towering task. Being a responsible adult was daunting. But God taught me not to be afraid of the tasks that lay ahead, and to take things one baby step at a time, one door at a time.
This year, God steered our family through another open door. I’m going back into the workforce. And this time, He’s bringing me back to my childhood dreams of journalism, but refined. Refined so that I can see writing and reporting as a quest for truth, rather than a quest for power and ego. So I’ve stepped through the door.
When I started freelancing as a journalist, I gleaned advice from older and wiser journalists and writers. This advice mostly boiled down to two points: 1) Expect rejection. 2) Never give up.
That kind of grit does not come naturally to me. Expect rejection? That’s a whole lot of closed doors!
That’s why I’m so thankful for my stay-at-home years. Through those quieter years at home, God taught me a thing or two about closed doors.
You see, the large achievements in His sight are just as valuable as the small achievements. That moment when He gave me self-control not to yell at my son for tracking mud all over the floors? Or that moment when I got an article published in a national newspaper? In God’s eyes, they’re the same. They’re both fruits of small steps of obedience. He’s like a proud father, just as proud of his one-year-old for taking a first step as he is of his 16-year-old for learning to drive.
So I don’t have to be that super-resilient, type-A woman who won’t take no for an answer. I don’t have to be that ultra-bright-always-cheerful-optimist professional woman. I just have to take one step forward at a time.
Without the structure of a boss and a clear chain of command above me, I now work from home as a freelance journalist. The task is huge, overwhelming, seemingly impossible. But I cut my day into manageable half-hour chunks. Those are my steps. Rome wasn’t conquered in a day. I will climb this mountain—one step at a time. I set measurable goals, and I slog one phone-call at a time, one interview at a time, one e-mail at a time, one paragraph at a time.
It’s slow-going, hard work. Sometimes I feel completely stuck. Like a total failure. I think I’ll never achieve anything great in writing again. And then I’ll see-saw. I’ll feel ecstatic with achievement, drunk on success, riding the waves of emotions that are too tightly tied to opened and closed doors. That’s when God reminds me to let Him guide me, and to let the Holy Spirit shine a light on my own feelings, without letting those feelings control me.
How does He remind me? Through His Word, planted in my heart every day. He reminds me that I am His child and that He knows every step before I step it. He reminds me that in His hands are the hearts of kings. He reminds me that He closes and opens doors according to His great power. He reminds me that He knit me together in my mother’s womb, that He designed me and guides me.
So I can trust. I can trust that He has lined everything up for this moment and this time.
But—what about the closed doors?
Oh, the closed doors. They are just as valuable as open doors. They teach us and guide us. We become stronger for closed doors...because we have a good God. Too often, we suspect that great riches hide behind all those closed doors; we imagine that God is withholding the best stuff behind those closed doors, cackling behind a cryptic, evil grin.
But that’s not who He is. He is the God of Scripture, our good Father, would never withhold anything truly good from us.
So I’m coming to see that every rejection letter is a sign of God’s guidance. (And so is every acceptance letter.)
I don’t know where this journey will take me, or take you as you walk past some doors and walk through others. But because we can trust the journey to God, the outcome doesn’t really matter. May He keep our sense of perspective and let us treasure each little moment, each closed door, each opened door, as a gift from Him.
Julia Cheung is a cultural analyst and journalist of relationships, always on the lookout for stories of beautiful misfits. She lives in Vancouver BC with the loveable motley crew of her pastor husband and two preteen children. She is a bundle of antitheses, a lover of truth, a teller of tales, a too often emotional egoist and a fervently curious anti-narcissist. You can find her online at wifeinredemption.com.