When Cade was about three, he had his neighbor friend over to play for the afternoon. While I was upstairs busily vacuuming and cleaning the kitchen, they were in the basement, quietly playing.
Or so I thought.
It wasn’t until I sat down to check my email that I heard the wails coming up from the floorboards. It was Jay, the neighbor boy, calling, “Waa!! Waa!! Waaaaaa!!!”
I flew downstairs, following the sound of the muffled cries, which led me to the office. I jiggled the doorknob, but it was locked.
Banging urgently, I called, “Boys, are you in there?” Jay turned the volume up a notch in response.
I hollered, “Can you open the door?” But Cade said, “No, we’re yocked in da cwoset, Mommy!” He started giggling, which made Jay howl even more miserably.
Our kids had discovered, some time ago, that the lock was on the room side of the door (not the closet side), making it possible for someone to get locked into the closet. What made this even more fun was that the lock wasn’t the type you could release with a stick pin, so it was impossible to unlock from within the closet.
It was a big closet, though, with lots of toys. So we didn’t make too big of a deal when the kids played tricks and locked each other in. Obviously, little brother Cade had caught on to the game. But his poor buddy, Jay, was not enjoying it quite so much.
The closet was the part of the house that extended beneath the garage, so I couldn’t get to the other side of any of its walls. My only communication with the boys was muffled hollering through two sets of doors.
As best I could, I told them not to worry. I would get the doorknob off and get them out! Searching frantically, I found a screwdriver then fell to my knees, working as quickly as I could. I could hear Jay whimpering and Cade making train noises. (Apparently Cade doesn’t have the gift of mercy.)
Within about 10 minutes, I dismantled the doorknob, and lunged for the closet door. Jay burst out, his cheeks red and tear stained. But Cade just glanced up and said, “Hi, Mommy,” then went on building his train track.
I consoled Jay, walked him home, and apologized profusely to his mom about the trauma we had put him through. Poor little guy! Then I went back home and reprimanded my three-year-old about locking people in closets. He agreed to never do that again (not that we’d give him the chance… that lock was coming OFF of there!). But even after I explained it, he never really seemed to understand why Jay had been crying. For him, it had just been an adventure in the toy closet.
I think sometimes I’m a little like Jay. I feel locked up and traumatized, but instead of an actual door that locks me in, it’s my sin. I confess on my face before God, and tell him that I want so desperately to walk in freedom, and then I get up and lock myself back in the suffocating closet. And start pounding and crying and groveling all over again.
If I’ll stop long enough to listen, Jesus, whose voice is a little muffled by the door of heaven, calls to me, reminding me of the truth. Soon enough, he is getting rid of all the locks. I will be completely free of sin, never to struggle again. He is my door to heaven.
In the meantime, I know that my Christian life is a battle field (though it may look like a toy room). I have an enemy who lays snares for me. His approach is two-pronged: He tempts me to fall, and then mocks me when I do. His warfare is in the art of skillful accusation. And when he sees me, back cowering in my closet, he grins with glee.
But if I can hone my listening skills in the midst of the battle’s chaos, my Shepherd stands ready to guide me across any mine field. I can step forward with confidence, knowing the battle has already been won. There is nothing my enemy can do to me.
Those who follow Jesus must be like sheep who are locked in on their Shepherd’s voice. It’s the difference between feeling traumatized and being at peace.