By: Emily Meeks
Locking the door at bedtime has been a nighttime practice since I can remember. When I was younger, it was the last thing that my father would do before coming upstairs – sliding the chain and turning the key to the deadbolt. I perceived that nothing could get in and nothing could be taken away.
During the height of the COVID lockdown, when church, yoga and restaurants were all closed, I traded urban Seattle living for the slower pace of an island off the Puget Sound. My virtual world expanded with ocean tides, herons’ nests, and forest passages. I began to notice that we stopped locking our doors. It wasn’t intentional but over time – in going to the grocery, walking to the ferry, riding bikes – we didn’t take our keys. The door could be entered freely. It was the first time I have experienced falling asleep without having to know the doors were locked.
Recently, preparing for a lectionary Bible study for the second Sunday of Easter, I revisited the story of Jesus appearing to the apostles behind locked doors. So often my focus has been after Jesus appears or Thomas’ questions, but this time, I was drawn to how Jesus shows up. Jesus comes through not one but two shut doors. Jesus breaks through a constructed protection to share peace that is beyond understanding.
A week later I attend a women’s retreat on another island in the Puget Sound. Our rooms did not have locks and to secure our valuables. Moving freely between buildings reminded me of the lightness of earlier pandemic days of my unlocked doors, and of island time. On Sunday morning, we gathered in a circle for Eucharist. I heard the words of an Iona community prayer and my attention focused in:
Open us up, Lord,
we whose lives are locked,
whose thoughts are well rehearsed, whose prayer is predictable.
Open us up to the depths of grace we have not explored, truths we have avoided,
paths we have not followed,
beauty we have yet to admire.
And open us up to Jesus,
in whom all things are held together for God and for our good.
I think about the habitual practice of locking valuables to feel safe and of the disciples gathering behind closed doors. What if we could live with more openness and less fear – what new truths might we see, paths discovered or beauty admired?
In her podcast series, Unlocking Us, Brene Brown describes “unlocking” as creating spaces for deep knowing and to hold the bravest to the most brokenhearted bits of life. I can imagine the disciples living in the loss of their beloved friend and intimately knowing both bravery and a broken heart. In coming through locked doors, Jesus shows us his desire for knowing our hidden places and transforming grief, fear and questioning into presence and joy.
In the third week of Easter, I attended a liturgical ministry training where the priest asked us to consider the space that a cathedral holds as a connection to our expression of ministry. He described that on Sunday mornings he is often the first one there to unlock the various cathedral doors outside and inside, one way through another. There are others who could do this task but there is something about remembering all who will come through into this space – seeking, questioning, worshiping – that makes this especially meaningful.
It makes me wonder whether John’s words were changed to: though our hearts were locked for fear of (insert self struggle here), Jesus came and stood with us and said, “Peace be with you.”
May that peace unlock every bolt within to remember He who has already freely come and to live with courage and an open heart.
Emily Meeks loves finding adventure and connection outside, especially while running, biking, hiking and kayaking. She attends and serves at Saint Mark’s Cathedral in Seattle.