Friendship: doors within doors

Advent is a season in which locked doorways open.

Advent is also a season in which we see the light seeping in from beneath, around and above the doorways of our lives.

This image of the doorway to the treasury in an ancient Cathedral shows a door within a door – a combined seven keys in the possession of seven different people needed, simultaneously, to open it. At a glance, the door looks solid and indeed is.  But at night, with light on one side, from the other side one may see the seams of the door, within the door emerge to define the two sizes of openings.In the daylight, one must simply notice the two sets of hinges, with confusion.

I am currently within a study week in which to read, research and write.  Half of my vacation was with a close friend with whom we cycled through the day in loops of meditation, prayer, tea, walks, meals, rest, work, writing, more tea, conversations, reading each others’ writing, more meals ….  It is just about as good as human life gets.

One of the norms from which our budding friendship is emerging is the delight we have in asking each other questions about our lives, about our thought, about our hopes, about anything.  If the conversation shifts, we ask each other permission to open this new door.  “May I take a turn?” And sometimes one door of conversation will lead to the opening of a door within the door – a smaller door – more intimate – through which one enters more gingerly.

What I notice about the great manor houses of England (i.e.: Downton Abbey) is that the aristocrats-of-old would reserve the two chairs and table by the fire in their bedroom for their most intimate friends … most intimate conversations. Not seductive. Not sexual.  Not secret.  Just intimate. With each hallway, the next one became smaller.  With each reception room, the next one became smaller:  the front park’s winding road, the majestic entrance court, the entry gallery, then reception room, dining room, salon, gaming room, reading room, dressing room, washing room, bedroom.  It was a succession of smaller and smaller rooms with smaller and less intimidating doorways, with fewer locks and smaller keys.

As we celebrate Advent, what if the celebration of the coming-of-God-in-human-form of Jesus might also be a season in which to notice the coming-of-God-in-the-human-form of friend? I know that my friend this week showed me more about Jesus than any text book.  It was like watching one of those plastic hologram toys – tilt it this way and it is Jesus.  Tilt it that way and it is my friend. What if Jesus is not just in bread and wine?  What if we each bring Christ to each other ins surprising ways?

If Advent could celebrate Christ’s coming in he human form of those we love as well as in an ancient manger, straw and swaddling clothes now dust on  desert dunes; then so, might the massive doorways we keep locked against change be passed up for the smaller doorways which have room only for two to pass with a candle and two glasses of tea or scotch?  And might the Advent of God not be just as powerful and healing in the form of a close friend as in the form of an image of Jesus from story books or from renaissance art – images which may not even be of much real likeness when push comes to shove?  What if Jesus was a short, dark-skinned guy with sparkling eyes and an mischievous grin? Would we replace our stained-glass images and icons?

I want real.  I want trustworthy.  I want show-up-real-or-go-home this Advent!  I am tired of fake bling and fake speech and fake smiles. Advent is a time to look at lies, not sins.

This Advent, I want my Rule of Life to include the discipline of joy.  I want as many nights with close friends, scotch and chocolate as there are mornings with prayer books, bread and wine.  The doorways are smaller and slightly harder through which to squeeze, but the effort of engaging a human in a very-real-equal-show-up-no BS-vulnerability so that REAL connection is achieved – that is Holy.  And this real engagement may…just may… be the very best way to honor a God who showed up, real to be with us.

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