I’ve been thinking lately about how God closes doors on us sometimes. In fact, there’s a story in Acts about Paul and Silas about that very idea. After driving a demon out of a young girl, Paul and Silas were thrown into prison – the very definition of closed and locked doors. Not only were they locked behind doors, they were in stocks and guarded carefully. I don’t know about you, but I would be tempted to give up at a time like that. Not only were the doors to their ministry closed, but they were literally locked up behind cell doors.
I’ve had my own experience of the door closing on me, albeit nowhere near to the same degree as Paul and Silas.
For the past several months, I’ve been sharing my journey of training for a half marathon after my fourth baby. Training postpartum is always a crazy journey as you figure out how to navigate a new body, demands of a newborn, and the sleep deprivation of those first few months of motherhood.
For me, training had never looked more scattered and more unpredictable, but I was satisfied with it. I had hit my long runs, squeezed in a couple of workouts, and was feeling pretty decent about my fitness level in the weeks leading up to the half marathon I had planned to run. It was a local race that I had been wanted to try since I moved here, and it seemed like a nice one to try for my first race back.
However, as the days clicked on and the deadline ticked nearer and nearer, I found myself suddenly hesitant to sign up for the race. Something was holding me back.
Signing up for a race is usually one of the first things I do; there’s nothing quite like the financial commitment of a race. If I’ve paid $80-$100 for a race, you can bet I’m running that race, even if it means crawling across the finish line. I’m earning that medal and the right to wear the t-shirt.
Yet, with this race, I delayed signing up for it. Part of it was I wanted to make sure I could actually commit to the training.
But there was another part that I couldn’t quite understand.
As the deadline drew nearer, I kept asking myself questions: What am I waiting for? Do I really want to do this? Why am I hesitating? Is this a mistake? Maybe I’m not fit enough? On and on the questions poured through my mind, but as I worked through each, none of it fit.
Sure, I’m not the fittest I’ve ever been, but I’m fit enough to run. There’s no reason I can’t do this. I’m not out to prove anything to anyone, this is just for fun.
And still the hesitation.
Some people will tell you they hear God speaking directly to them. I’m not sure if that’s true, but I will say that sometimes God puts closed doors in your path, or gut feelings in you for a reason, even if you don’t always understand why.
For me, my gut was telling me that now wasn’t the time. So I listened, and I made the decision to not run, while trying not to feel disappointed in myself.
Sure enough, the week of that race, I learned exactly why God had closed the doors to my race: my husband’s grandfather died that week. The funeral was Friday and the burial was Saturday morning, the day of the race.
I had already made peace with my decision to not run, but it was amazing to see God’s hand in those little details.
If I had ignored my feelings, signed up for the race, would I have been angry and frustrated that I couldn’t run at a time when my husband and his family needed me? Would I have been distracted, selfish, and irritated instead of understanding and comforting?
The disappointment I felt completely dissolved when I watched just how God can work out all things according to his plan. It’s often very difficult to let go and trust that he knows best and that his plans are far greater than ours, but it’s something we all need to do.
Back in that dark and dirty prison cell, Paul and Silas could have easily given up right then and there. But instead, what did they do? They trusted God’s amazing love and spent the night praying and singing hymns, loudly enough that other prisoners could hear them.
Suddenly the ground shook and the doors of the prison flew open, and the chains fell off their feet. It may have seemed like God and closed the door on them, but rather, he had opened the door for an even greater witnessing opportunity. Many, including the jailer, were brought to faith that day.
You Heavenly Father knows what he’s doing even if it seems like sometimes he’s just slamming doors in your face, left and right. But I’ve seen plenty of examples of God’s hand in my life, and it’s a reminder that his way really is the best way, and through faith I can lean on that.
It’s something I’m working on.
Meanwhile, I’m still running. And looking for race suggestions for the spring.