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Thursday, August 01, 2019

No Need to Knock

Why don't we pray? I have a list of reasons / excuses as long as my arm. Maybe you do too. Today, I was struck with an idea to put into a kind of story. I was listening to Stephen Curtis Chapman's song "Let Us Pray," and had a series of images come to mind. I think it was to help me pray. Maybe it will help you as well. 

No Need to Knock

I leave the confines of my room for the long hall with equally great weariness and wariness. I have not traveled this way for too long a time, and I do not know what I will find at the passage’s end. As soon as the flickering torchlight scatters my shadows, I feel an overwhelming urge, like an undertow, grasping with unseen hands to pull me back. I want to go back. A voice of my own thoughts whispers, “This is a path of privilege, the way of valiant souls…and royalty. It is not for me.”

I take small, tentative steps forward. I am reminded of all the times I have come this way and failed. How often had I turned back because it was too late, missing the appointment because I was distracted? How many occasions had I been turned away because I was not properly attired? How frequently had I ascended until I just…couldn’t…take…another…step, awakening later to retreat in shame? The voice is right. This path is not for me.

Especially today. Today, I am a pauper, covered in threadbare rags and drenched in filth and blood. I bear unfathomable guilt like a rotting second skin. I do not belong in this hall, the hall that stretches before me, its end in shadow growing farther—not nearer—with each heavy step. Just make it to the next torch, I tell myself. And then the next. I press on, but the incline grows steeper. My foot loses purchase. I fall and slide backward in the slick of my own grime. 

Weeping, I flail and climb to my unsteady feet. Too hard. Too far. I know I will never make it. Still, the torchlight never wavers. The One I seek keeps them alight. I know I must continue. Continue or die.

I pass one torch. Then another. I am moving more quickly now. How many torches behind me? I don’t look back. At last, the shadow ahead parts like a curtain. I am almost there! The door is before me, looming like the impenetrable gate of a fortified castle. I stand just two paces away. I raise my fist—

“There is no need to knock,” comes the voice of the One. “The door is open.”

Still seemingly heavy beyond reckoning, the impassive door glides inward, and I am bathed in light. I am at once blinded…and seen. I duck my head. I should not have come.

Fingers. Gentle as silk but stronger than iron, the fingers cup my chin and lift my head. I see the One at last, and all fear flees. And suddenly, suddenly, I feel quite absurd. 

“Tell me, my child,” He says, “why did you wait so long?”

The uncanny mirth of my situation gets the best of me, and I laugh. Why indeed did I wait so long? 

And then, I recall. “I’m sorry,” I whisper. “I was afraid.”

And then, it was His turn to laugh, a great braying, thunderous laugh. “You were afraid? Of me? But child, I love you. You are always welcome in my presence.”

“I thought I had waited too long,” I say. “Too late for—”

“Too late for my Grace?” His eyes shine down on me like kindly searchlights. “I am beyond time, my child. My Grace cuts the fabric of time. There is no late.”

“But I have been rebuffed.” The brittle words spill from my mouth like icicles in the sun. “I am clothed in wretchedness.”

“Rebuffed? Not by me. And your garb? You simply were not seeing clearly. Shall I fetch you a mirror?”

Those massive, gentle hands hold out an exquisite looking glass framed in pristine silver. Its pure beauty is no match for the figure I see in the reflection. I am clothed in white and gold…and glory.
I manage to splutter, “How…?”

“My Son,” He replies. “You wear the garments He purchased on your behalf. His very own.” He withdraws the looking glass, but His smile is more radiant than anything I have yet seen.

“Your Son,” I whisper. “He paid an awful price.”


“For me.”


“And yet, like the others, there are times that I cannot stay awake…to keep watch?”

“What father would not be warmed by His child’s words trailing off into slumber? What father would not feel the kindling of love by His child’s sleeping in His arms?”

Tears spill over my lids and run down my cheeks. “But so many times I am heavy with guilt of my own transgression. Like today, I have sullied your Son’s garments with the blackest ash of my sin.”

“That is especially why you have come,” He says. “This is my Throne of Grace. When you are besmirched, there is no place else for you to turn, not without incurring terrible costs. And there is no other place but the Throne of Grace where you will actually receive help in your time of need.” 

I am overwhelmed and euphoric. “I…I can come any time? No matter what I’ve done?”

“Any time,” He says. “Day or night. And, child, the long arduous hall you imagine at times? It is simply not there. There is a door to my Throne of Grace, and it is always open. Just come.” 

14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. 16 Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4: 14-16)