There has been some unusual response to my last two posts on “spiritual” subjects, and I have been pleased with the resonance that some have felt about where God might be challenging and leading us. This doorway is from the gorgeous Tunisian settlement of Sidi Bou Said, and I took it in 2009. The inscription – a quote from John 10 – I am the Good Shepherd; the Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep – is digital, but it is what came into my mind as I thought about this lovely door. I really love the way it has been prepared and decorated, as though to enter it each time is a special event, and that those enter it are somehow blessed with a sense of that specialness. The Arab world is full of interesting doors and guarded entrances to secret gardens, and Arab and Turkish literature is full of references to them. In the UK, we have cloistered gardens, doors built in the monastic tradition and the simple brick entrances to kitchen gardens on large estates, and perhaps best of all, the wonderful Victorian and Edwardian double doors either side of a porch with the inner one beautifully glazed with patterns and colours, and the porch floor inlaid with tiles.
The sacredness of the threshold is an important concept that has applicability in many ways – from the care we take when entering a colleague’s classroom, to the removal of our shoes in a home we are visiting, to the anticipation of delight at the entrance into a new home, or newly decorated room. Often the attraction is simply going from bright sunlight, reflected off whitewashed walls, to the coolness and shade of a watered garden. This phrase, as a harbinger of peace and shalom, occurs in the scriptures (Isa 58; Isa 63) as something much to be desired.
The entrance of your word brings light (Ps 119:130)…. I had this scripture floating around yesterday as I was praying for a colleague at school. Light enters, like anything enters, through gateways that we create. The picture of Jesus, standing at the door of a church’s hard heart in Revelation 3 and knocking, is another extension of this metaphor.
For part of today I have begun to compile prayers and psalms that we might put to use in school, reminders of the importance of place and of Jesus’ deep longing for us that we dwell and flourish in peace. And in this, the scriptures about Jesus being a door for the sheep as well as being the good shepherd, are full of meaning for us. What I had in mind is that we might pray or receive blessing everywhere we go in school, that each room or each doorway would be marked by a prayer for peace, for wisdom, for justice, for love, so that as we move around the school, we would begin, liturgically, to take these prayers to heart. They would be small, just enough to remind those who wanted reminding, that God’s blessing accompanied them to their next task.
Then also today, I have written and distributed to our chaplaincy team, a short position paper on prayer in school (a response to the sense of urgency I have been feeling about the need for us to pray more), and have included some of these thoughts in that.
Certain doors and doorways require more effort, and to establish prayer in the life of a school will not happen without concerted work and a bloody-mindedness that refuses to be put off by obstacles. The last picture from Sidi Bou Said has stairs to climb before the door, a small hint at effort.
These however, pale into insignificance when compared to the effort required by the Tibetan monks who worship in this particular monastery. This picture, taken and sent me by my brother-in-law in 2007, might be a useful picture to leave in our minds of the importance of meeting with our God in the daily life we live in school, and what we need to do to establish it.