I am here in Princeton, NJ, for work but have given myself enough time to wander the university campus. There’s no plan for what I want to see, just my usual prayer for God to guide me and teach me.
All around me are beautiful stone buildings. But what catches my eye are the arched doorways in the castle-like structures. The holes the walls. Beckoning me to enter.
And so, I do. Some, like this one, usher me into the darkness of a cool passageway. Beyond, the contrasting light draws me through. Sometimes, that far-off view includes something intriguing – like a tree, still in leaf. At other times, I just get a glimpse of another building.
I decide to let the arches lead me. When I exit one, I look for another. There’s a joy in the simplicity of this quest. Without the focus on the destination, I can celebrate the uniqueness of each passageway.
It’s not that I don’t want to arrive someplace. But too often, I allow my arrival to diminish my journey. Today, those blinders are off. I can notice the repetition of shapes. The intricate patterns. And how the streaming sunlight sometimes throws off the symmetry.
Exiting a passageway, I find I’m across an open space from the university cathedral. This feels right – that my wanderings should end in a sacred space. I approach the doors, praying that they’re unlocked, open them with relief, and enter.
Like any high-vaulted nave, this sanctuary fills me with awe and a sense of my own smallness. I sit down on a hardwood pew to take in my surroundings. And to contemplate Jesus.
His words come to me:
I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. John 10:9
Jesus is the gate – of salvation, but also of finding pasture. I think about all the decision points in my long life and career. He was the gate, determining the direction of my going out, receiving me as I came into the next gateway.
And he will be the final arrival place, where my life and praise add color into the sanctuary like the hues thrown on these stone pillars from the windows above.
As I leave, God shows me a little touch of his humor. In a side alcove, I find a stained-glass portrait that looks very much like a medieval version of me, scribing feather poised. I smile at the crazy improbability of it.
And I worship him for this reminder that I have come to where I am by his kind and wise guidance.
One archway at a time.
Father, guide us. When we can’t see the way ahead, just help us find the next gate.
Reader: what’s your favorite passageway or gate near you? Tell me about it.