This is the door of my father’s stories. This very door, pictured above, in an abandoned church in a tiny stone village in England.
My family worshipped here 500 years ago, and probably long before that. Through this door my tenth great-grandfather walked one last time before leaving on an impossible journey to the distant shores of America.
Was he running from something, the last time he walked through that door? Maybe hunger? Or hopelessness? A broken heart? Or was he running towards something? Adventure? Freedom? Was he driven by ambition or desperation? I’ll never know.
I do know that he made his way to the shores of the Maine wilderness, charting unexplored land in the company of the Abenaki Natives, building a home on the shores of Cape Neddick. Surviving somehow – and then thriving.
I lay my hand on the door’s ancient wood, push to enter the empty room where my ancestors knelt and prayed, sang and worshipped. I think of the doors I have walked through in my own life, some shoved through hastily in my leaving, others opened cautiously, their creaky hinges speaking of promise, risk, and dreams.
I, too, have built a home in the wilderness, forged community to warm the winter nights. I, too, have knelt to worship, acknowledging that I am an immigrant to heaven, leaving all that was for a land of all that is promised.
We are strangers and aliens in this world, the apostle Peter told us, meant for the reckless risk of giving it all away for the precious pearl of the kingdom of light.
Outside in the church yard, headstones lean and crumble, their inscriptions long gone to time and weather. Like them, our futile attempts at remembrance quickly fade on this side of heaven. But we belong to the God who sees; who remembers. Who resurrects. There are no headstones on the other side of death’s door.
Later, as I gaze down from my airplane window at the ocean my ancestor crossed all those years ago, I consider how his decisions led to my existence. As a teenager on that dangerous voyage, I’m sure he wasn’t considering his posterity. And I wonder how my choices will trickle down into the lives of those who come after me.
What about you? Have you left the old ways of living to embark on the adventure of life in Jesus? Have you stepped through the door to hope? Or are you intent on carving your tombstone here in the moldering graveyard of this world?
There is a ship waiting in the harbor – waiting for you to board. Waiting to bring you into a life of adventure impossible to imagine from the stony shores of the old world. Come and see.