By: Emily Meeks
Making sure a door is locked at nighttime has been my 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 at the front door and turning the key to the deadbolt on the back. 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 realize that we stopped locking our doors. It wasn’t intentional but over time – going to the grocery, walking to the ferry, riding bikes – we would not take our keys. The house could be entered freely. It was the first time I have experienced falling asleep without having to worry about the doors being locked.
Recently, I revisited the story of Jesus appearing to the apostles in John 20:19-31. So often in this passage became my focus after Jesus appeared or Thomas questioned, but this time, I was drawn to how Jesus showed up. Jesus came through not one but two locked doors. Jesus broke through a constructed protection to share a peace that is beyond understanding.
A week later I attended a women’s retreat on another island in Puget Sound. There the guest rooms did not have locks and we were instructed to secure our valuables as needed. Moving freely between buildings reminded me of the lightness of those earlier pandemic days of unlocked doors and 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 for safety and of the disciples gathered 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 passing through locked doors, Jesus shows us his desire for knowing our hidden places and transforming grief, fear and questioning into presence and joy.
During 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 being a connection to our expression of ministry. He described his own Sunday mornings when he is usually the first one to unlock the various cathedral doors outside and inside, one way through another. Others could do this task, but, he told us, there is something about remembering those who would come – seeking, questioning, worshiping – that makes unlocking especially meaningful.
I wonder, what if John’s words were changed to say: 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.