Eight. That is how many steel prison doors I walk through to get to our pod to do classes with my group. Only three of these doors are usually open. All of the others are closed and locked. I have no control over when or if they open for me. And neither do the officers sitting just on the other side of them. That is a safety feature. If we, staff and officers on the ground, have no control over opening the doors, we can’t be forced to open them by a resident wanting to escape.
One morning, I was walking into the facility in a hurry because my classes were starting shortly, and I came to a gate that was closed. I pushed the little button beside it. Imagine a gate in a tall chain link fence covered with spirals of razor wire. This gate was like that. I waited. A few inmates who were loitering nearby came up and started making some comments. I kept waiting. Other staff members walked up to the gate from the other side. They pushed the button. We all kept waiting. And waiting. We stood there for 20 minutes before that gate popped open. It was frustrating. But guess what?
I have no control over the prison doors.
They are operated by people in the control room. These people are looking at an array of monitors that show the prison from every angle. They can see what’s going on all over the property all at once. They see both sides of every door. I only see my side.
I’ve been learning something over these months of going in and out of the prison as I wait on someone I can’t see to open doors for me, hoping that they see me standing there. I’ve been learning something about trust.
I have to trust that they see me there on the monitors, waiting by the door. I have to trust that they will open the door when it’s all clear on the other side. I have to trust that if something bad is happening on the other side, they will not open that door and let me walk into something dangerous. Even if I am getting annoyed or impatient with them.
I think about trust a lot as I wait for these doors to buzz open. I think about the non-literal doors where I have so often stood, waiting. “When are You going to open this door, Lord? Don’t You see me? Why aren’t You answering?”
I have no control over those doors either.
Waiting is hard. It’s hard to wait for Someone you can’t see to open doors that you can’t open on your own. And that’s where the trust comes in. I have to trust that God sees me. I know He does, but He sees more than just me. He sees the big picture and the consequences of opening and closing doors that reverberate on into eternity. I have to trust that in His wisdom, He will keep some doors locked, no matter how hard and long I knock on them because He knows what’s on the other side and what that will lead to. I have to trust that He has a plan, and that it is good. To loosely quote Tim Keller, “His plan is what I would pray for if I knew what He knows.” I have to trust that when He opens a door, I can and should walk through it.
At the end of the day, it’s not about the doors at all. It’s about the One in the control room- the who has power over every door. It takes trust to walk through them and it takes trust to be at peace when they remain closed.
I am still learning this. Every time I wait by prison doors.