I am preaching for my pastor next Sunday ( first Sunday after Easter). The text is 20:19-23. Working with the text, I sensed I should write a blog about men and our “closed doors.” Jesus appears to his disciples on the evening of the resurrection. “The doors (were) locked for fear of the Jewish leaders.” But in spite of the locked doors, “Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!'” The disciples are confused, disappointed, and fearful that they would be taking away by the Roman authorities. But here Jesus is standing right in their midst. After showing them his hands and side the disciples were “overjoyed.” His small band of followers went from being afraid to being overjoyed. Realizing Jesus was present, the disciples began to change in their attitude.
We all develop “closed doors” to our inner life when we are afraid. It’s natural to protect ourselves from hurt and misunderstanding, by barricading ourselves in what we imagine to be a “safe and secure” space. Fear prompt us to behave in way that hinder healthy relationships with God and others. We form restrictive boundaries as we become more cautious and suspicious. We limit our interactions by avoidance or compulsion. Other notice we are more vigilant and guarded. In the process we become more controlling in our relationships. Our fear can come from within, rather then from outside circumstances. We don’t realize that Jesus is actually present even behind our “closed doors.”
An observation made by David Benner has been of great help to me . “(1) fear occurs when the human spirit is afraid of itself, (2) fear is often a substitute for guilt, and (3) guilt always results in an inhibition to love.” I was afraid of myself. I feared the “anger” in my heart. My anger self was an enemy because I could not admit the angry stored in my heart. I inflicted on my family and congregation with a kind of “floating bitterness. My spiritual friend at the time, asked me how I felt when I was anger. My immediate response was “guilty.” He helped reassure me that my anger was a natural response to life. It was what I did with that anger that mattered. Because I was harboring unresolved anger I could not believe God loved me. I felt guilty. Therefore, I was on a “treadmill” of trying to win God’s approval, while feeling a guilt deserving of punishment. What emotions are do you harbor that make you fearful of yourself?
I could accept that I was an “angry” man. I did not have to pretend to be a synthetic, caring person. I slowly was able to stop “performing” for the Lord, while becoming more authentic and honest. The realization that I was afraid of my own emotions, broke a “log-jam” of other hidden emotions that I could not accept. It was liberating to understand at the heart level, that God loved me in all my vulnerability and shame. His unconditional love for someone such as me has become the “spiritual mantra” of my journey ever since.
Men, don’t allow yourself to get barricaded behind closed doors. Like me, when you allow yourself to admit those emotions inside that make you fearful of yourself, you will feel like a child who needing to be held in reassurance and love. That is exactly what Jesus does for you. He will receive you in your fearful, wounded, broken condition and bring you to the Father. There, as a frightened child, you can rest in the father’s love. Remember Jesus words, “Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 18:4).