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The doors we walk through (A reflection on 2020)

by | Jan. 11, 2021

Makes You Think

We saw a lot of doors close in 2020—the doors to our homes, our churches, our schools. And as the months passed, many people watched their doors to opportunity swing soundly shut, often taking their optimism with it. 

Maybe now has never been a better time to learn to be, as Ralph Waldo Emerson suggested, “an opener of doors.” And the first step, I think, to following Mr. Emerson’s instruction is to believe that there are doors of opportunity available to all of us. I hope you’ll let me convince you into believing that, too.

A Cold March Morning

To begin, let’s go to the morning of what would prove to be my last normal day as a student at Utah State University.

I woke up on a Wednesday in early March, bracing myself for a bitterly cold walk up the hill to campus. Once there, I’d move through my day of attending classes, working at the writing center, doing homework, and exercising at the rec center. Nothing about my schedule was unpleasant, but it didn’t seem very exciting either—just tediously predictable. 

Right before opening my front door to leave, I thought to pause and pray. Loaded backpack still on, I took a knee for probably less than 15 seconds. 

When I stood back up, I was suddenly filled with feelings of gratitude for my life. I felt lighter. Happier. For a few seconds I just stood there trying to figure out why I suddenly felt so good. Nothing specific came to mind, so I pulled open my front door, now excited to go walk up that blasted hill for the thousandth time.

It was still cold outside, but the happy brightness of the sun is what caught my attention. As I joined the swarm of students making their daily trek up the hill, I couldn’t help but let my eyes linger a bit longer on the faces around me. I felt more aware that every face has a story behind it. I sensed I was walking with important, fascinating people. 

At the top of the hill, campus looked more beautiful than it had just the day before. I felt that thrill of walking around a beautiful new city as a tourist, when everything is exciting just because you are there seeing it. This was the campus I’d walked around for the past four years, but it felt as exciting as the day I’d toured it as an overeager freshman.

In political science, I actually paid attention to the entire lecture and enjoyed it. Learning about my country’s foreign policy procedures was a privilege, not a bore, that day. (And the cute boy across the room’s resemblance to Troy Bolton seemed especially striking.)

The bubbling, happy, gratitude I felt was so undeniable. It was like a bright filter had been rolled across the whole day. Everything was to be appreciated. Loved. Fawned over. My simple, predictable life as a college student was suddenly a dream come true. A fantasy I was one in a million to be living. 

At the end of that happy, almost magical day, USU students received an email informing us that classes would be going completely online indefinitely. The rec center (easily my favorite spot on campus) closed soon after. Then graduation was canceled. And eventually so was everything else. 

Unknowingly, I had opened my front door that morning to my last “real” day. And knowingly, God opened my eyes to recognize the thrill of living. My gracious feelings were not random. 

But What If I Flatline?

As the cancellations dragged on for the next 10 months, I held on to that day of gratitude. It was my promise that God knows what’s going on. Throughout the whirlwind, I found myself repeating a phrase a friend had said casually in a conversation about our summer plans: “Doors will open. Doors will open.” 

In May, I graduated college, which was exciting, but also intimidating, especially during the stress of a pandemic. I’m not sure why, but I started visualizing my life as pulses on the screen of a heart monitor. Each previous spike on the monitor had been triggered by an event or accomplishment in my life: graduate high school— beep. Enroll at USU— beep. Visit Europe— beep. Go on a mission— beep. Graduate college— beep. But now I feared the beeps would stop. Nothing else would happen and I would figuratively flatline. All the work I’d done would amount to nothing, and I would move home, jobless and lost.

“Doors will open” was my fight back against such thoughts. I said it to remind myself that we don’t always know the good things and opportunities coming our way. “Doors will open” was my reminder to work and live as if you are meant to accomplish something great one day, even if you can’t see it right now.

More than Fluffy Optimism

December brought the end of my internship with the Liahona magazine. As I and the other interns prepared to leave, we attended (virtually of course) a presentation from one of the assistant editors with the Church magazines, Ryan Jensen. 

Ryan’s presentation was simply called “Doors.” We began by watching a slideshow of pictures of 10 or so different doors. Then Ryan went back and explained a bit about what each door meant to him. It turned out we’d been looking at the door to his and his wife’s first home, the door of a chapel he had worshiped in during his mission in Paris, the door to his family’s favorite vacation home, and so on.

Then Ryan had us open to John 10. Now, either I’ve accidentally skipped that chapter my whole life or maybe Heavenly Father was saving it for me to appreciate at the right moment.

To my surprise, John 10:7 says, “Then Jesus said unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep.” And then verse 9 says, “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.”

Ryan testified that Christ is the door to bright futures. He can provide a way for us to walk through to peaceful pastures.

I was shocked. My little mantra actually had a scripture to back it up? I should have realized that something that was so uplifting and helpful to me had a tie to the Savior. 

After Ryan’s presentation I felt so seen—so validated. Believing that doors will open wasn’t just fluffy optimism. Jesus Christ makes it reality! I studied more and found Revelations 3:8 which says, “I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it.”

No man, woman, or pandemic for that matter, can shut the door on heaven’s plans for us.

A Help to Hope

My heart hurts for people whose doors to meaningful opportunity seem to repeatedly close—but we can’t give up. If we want to find them, Christ will guide us to the right door eventually. And we may be surprised at what lies on the other side. Elder Gary E. Stevenson said, “He can open doors and help us find strengths and abilities we never knew we had.”

Here’s one quick happy example that I found very helpful in being hopeful: 

Last year, my friend graduated college and hadn’t been able to find a job. She was working at a women’s clothing store but felt frustrated and trapped by the lack of opportunity. So, she and her husband turned to the Lord for help; they fasted for a meaningful job opportunity. A few days later, my friend heard of a job opening for an English teacher at the local high school. Her degree was in English literature, but not education. She applied anyway. Within two weeks of that fast, she had a full-time teaching position and plans to earn her teaching certificate. 

A door opened, and she walked through.

I know it doesn’t always work that way, but I think there is power in believing that sometimes it does.

Being a Door Opener

On that fateful day back in March, I opened my apartment door to a day that I would lean on for months. Since then, I have been astonished at the doors that have continued to open for me.

And I believe that doors will open for you, too. Doors to understanding, doors to healing, doors to success. Because of Christ they will keep opening until we’ve walked the path back to our heavenly home where we will all “find pasture.” 

Our job is to believe that doors will present themselves, work in hope until they do, and then be a door opener! 

In my humble opinion, one of the most comforting scriptures of all time is 3 Nephi 13:32: “For your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.”

He knows you need a job, a car, a place to live, people to love, and to be loved. And I don’t think it’s all that crazy to think He will help us get there, do you?

Lead image: Shutterstock
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Emily Abel

Emily first found her love for storytelling as an editorial intern at LDS Living. She recently returned as senior editor and loves that her job is to highlight the meaningful in life. Emily is a graduate of Utah State University in English. Hiking trails, dance studios, and behind the cover of a good book are some of her favorite places to be.

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