The humidity of August closed in on a small bungalow. A young girl lay on top of her bed, in tank top and shorts, with a fan going because the air conditioning had failed again that day. Sweat gathering on her forehead she considered the day ahead. She must plan. Where would her escape lay today? She imagined herself on her bicycle riding down to the lake in time before the crowds gathered. Maybe. Or maybe she should call her friend Maureen and they could take a longer ride out of the town. She imagined the effort required to pedal that far and how good it might feel to put some distance on her feelings. Not that she could have explained it that way to you. She could just feel the anger grind out in her bike chain and knew she would feel better.
The yellow shine on the wood of the closet stared blankly at her but she shivered. No, she did not need to go there today. It was quiet in the house and she was safe.
In the kitchen she was surprised to find her father sitting quietly. She had not been able to guess that there was someone else in the house and she could usually tell. She just knew. She felt a flutter of disappointment as she pretended all was well. Instead of making a sandwich to take with her on a ride she pushed the screen door open calling out “Bye dad goin’ for a ride”.
Pedalling down the street making her own wind she felt a little free.
Instead of heading down the hill to the water she turned left toward the main drag. She slowed, the close heat felt like a blanket. Somehow oppressive and comforting at the same time. She meandered up and down the few streets of town. Something made her stop at the old church on King Street. Straddled on her bike, staring at the tower, she sensed an invitation. She knew the building of course. When her mom was alive they had gone there every Sunday and it had been a safe if boring place to be.
The blue bike got propped against the brick. It was Saturday and she knew the large wooden and iron doors at the front would be locked. She approached the side door that led to the church basement. The latch pushed down easily and in she went. The dusty smell was overwhelming and stung her nostrils as she went down the stairs, but she felt a sense of adventure. This was a familiar place, but she could look anywhere that she wanted! The cold floor was welcoming, and she took her shoes off. She had no desire to turn on lights, this felt like fun. The large room that held long tables of people for the annual Christmas dinner was empty. Looking around, her eyes became focused on a small door. She had never gone in there before.
Heart beating faster she walked up to the door and opened it. It was a very small room, and the few things housed there took up most of the space. Her eyes took in the maintenance and cleaning supplies, wash bucket and mop, step-ladder, then those intense green eyes landed on a wooden chair. She wondered what it was doing there. Surely no one would want to sit in this small space! But she did! She thought of her closet at home and wanted to know what virtues this closet offered. She sat somewhat gingerly at first, then slid back on the seat, leaning against the hard back
It was dark, but she was not afraid. Her pulse slowed, peace gradually moving down her body with a feeling of smoothness, like honey. Were her eyes becoming accustomed to the dark or was there now more light available in the space? She watched in wonder as light gathered and expanded in front of her. Was this now a painting above her that she had not seen at first? A combination of fear and awe and love whirled; as the most beautiful person she had ever seen, appeared before her. Love increased rapidly and tangibly flooding the room and her heart. It felt like she was floating or maybe flying completely weightless. Her chest expanded as if holding the universe. Surrounded and held up by this all-encompassing sensation of being loved. In the closet. The closet of her heart where no one was allowed. Where she was closed off. Safe. But lonely.
A need to respond felt like a blade of grass appearing above the ground, then grew with her fluttering chest. She did not know what to do or say as this small room was overtaken by this Presence. She moved off the chair down to her knees. The light so bright, saturating her and the air around her, she heard, “Jesus”, then, “I am Jesus. I stand at the door and knock. Just say yes and open the door”. She had not known she had such a precious private closet within her that she could choose to open. Or choose not to do so.
Amazement dawned; what seemed like a thousand thoughts at once. “God is real! And even more astonishing God is here! Right now! Loving me and asking me to love Him back!”
Did she say yes out loud? She thought she had, but she couldn’t hear anymore because there was a roar in her ears that was like an ocean. So many noises at one time! Layers and layers of sound, like waters, bubbling brooks, streams, currents and waves that seemed to all harmonize like a song! Every note on the scale at once and in every possible combination. The waves of song rose, and it seemed to her that there were angels in the closet as well!
She left the closet;made her way, somehow, out of the church. She felt strange, as if she was new to her body. It moved slowly, and her legs trembled like Jell-O. That day remains, vivid, a demarcation of life, divided into before and after this event. Many stories can be told about this young girl and the spiritual journey that began on that sweltering summer day. Truth, she was re-born!