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  • Writer's pictureEmily Echols

Keeping the Door Open

Photo by Jan Tinneberg on Unsplash

A few weeks ago, I had a rough Wednesday. Dinner was wild enough that I asked my husband if he needed back up. I said I didn’t have to go to derby practice. He was smart enough to know that I really did need to go to derby practice and told me to go. The gym was unavailable, so we met at the river trail for a trail ride.

It had rained earlier in the day, but a cool breeze cut through the humidity. It was overcast and the sun was starting to set. The trail follows the river on one side and the fence line of post on the other side. We could hear birds and see little blue iridescent beetles on the trail that reminded me of the blue beetles at Philmont.

I talked to friends for a while but after we turned around, I skated between groups. I listened to the shh shh of my skates on the trail. I felt my muscles working and I felt the cool breeze on my face. I smelled the river and the damp ground from the rain. I felt the tension leaving my body. I wanted to hold onto that feeling forever. Shh Shh.

On the way home, “Open Your Eyes” by Snow Patrol played. The chorus is “Tell me that you’ll open your eyes,” over and over again. I felt like the song was telling me to see the iridescent blue beetles and to smell the river. Yes, Snow Patrol, I’m doing that. “I want so much to open your eyes 'Cause I need you to look into mine.” Ah, yes, I was just talking about being more open to God, actually listening, actually being willing to listen. Shh shh. Tell me that you’ll open your eyes.

When we were in the process of being confirmed as Episcopalians one of the priests at St. Mary’s told me to keep the door open to ordination. I bristled at the idea. That baby had a padlock on it. There was a guard dog and a fence with concertina wire and mounted machine guns with motion sensors. No one was getting through that door. Then the other priest told me I had a call to ministry, that it might not be ordained ministry but it was there and I needed to figure it out. And I cried because it still felt too overwhelming to even think about that guarded, barred door and all the heartache it had caused me.

Bishops and canons keep asking Steve what the deal is with me. (I’d like to know myself.) Steve says he doesn’t want to pressure me or bug me about it but other people, even people who have just heard about me, see in me what people have always seen. This time it doesn’t feel like an obligation or a requirement for love or acceptance. This feels like an invitation. It feels open-ended, like I could start talking to a formator and figure it out as I go along. Or maybe figure it out years down the road and that that would be okay, too. Because maybe it’s enough to open my eyes that have been scrunched closed with fear for ten years.

When I saw myself as a pastor at twelve years old, the woman I saw was not a young woman. I was maybe in my forties or fifties. I’m not sure why that never occurred to me before but the woman I saw was not who I was when I decided to leave the ordination process in the United Methodist Church. Maybe that’s significant. Maybe it’s not.

So here I am, roller skating. Shh shh. I’m trusting my feet. I’m taking hits without falling. When I do fall, I get back up without my hands touching the ground. I have little scratches, Velcro burns, and bruises on my arms but they feel like badges of honor. I wasn’t scared when I took the hit. I’m doing fun, hard things. Tell me that you’ll open your eyes. Maybe there are other fun hard things out there that I should be doing.

The guard dog is gone, the fence has been rolled away, and the machine guns have been melted down. The padlock is open and the door is propped open a few inches. It’s open to people who are curious enough to push it all the way open and go inside. I’m not ready to peek inside yet but I’m not afraid of what might come out of that door anymore. I never needed the dog or the machine guns. All I ever really needed was to know that God loved me whether or not I was ever a pastor or a priest.

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