The Key, The Door, & The Room
Maria stood to join in singing praise songs to begin the Easter service at church. She knew it was good to be there, but she couldn’t help but be distracted by the thoughts overpowering the words she was singing. “What did Jen think of that book I leant her? Does Charles like the dress I’m wearing today? What should I make for dinner?”
The thoughts kept distracting her into the second song. Why did she agree to come to this? What was the point to all of this church stuff anyway?
She looked up at the three large crosses hanging in the front of the sanctuary. She knew that two of them represented thieves and murderers. She remembered her mother telling her that the middle one represented her sin and the death of a God man that erased them all for her. But why a cross? She found herself deeply concentrated on the middle one, almost like nothing else was going on around her. “Why the cross?” She thought to herself again.
Suddenly, it was like Maria was taken into another place. The cross turned sidewise and shrunk to fit within her right hand. She felt heavy thinking of her sin and shame as she walked along a garden pathway. If only people knew my past. If only they knew what I was really like. The cross in her hand felt weighty. It grew heavier as she walked along the path and thought about herself.
Then she came to a rocky hill with a little hobbit-like house carved into its side. There was a stone door blocking its entrance. Maria was confused. No hobbit would be able to open, let alone move, a heavy door like that. In fact, the door looked more like a boulder. She peered inside a window to the left of the door to see if anyone lived there, but it was too dark. She couldn’t see anything except her reflection in the glass. She didn’t know where else to go since she hadn’t been in that place before.
She found a bench to the right of the house and sat down. She realized that while lost in her thoughts, she had missed the beauty that surrounded this little home. She saw the branches of the olive trees gently sway with the breeze. Lilies lined the pathway, their scent wafting with the waves of the wind.
This place was peaceful, yet she couldn’t help but feel… What did she feel – sorrow. She felt alone and lost. She was grieved. The more Maria sat there, the more she felt overwhelmed. What was the value of life? Who was she anymore?
Maria looked down at the cross in her hand, now almost too heavy to hold. She couldn’t help but begin to weep. She felt broken and worthless. Just then, an old gardener wandered around the corner whistling a familiar tune.
It was a song she hadn’t heard since her mother passed away. The memory came flooding back of her mother making pie in the kitchen. She wore a red polka-dot dress with a white apron. Her brown, curly hair perfectly tucked into a French twist, showing off her pearl earrings. Her mother was beautiful. She had a glow about her face that Maria never understood. They had a hard life, and yet her mother always seemed to be joyful. As she worked to roll out the dough, she sang her favourite song.
“Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now am found
Was blind but now I see
Was Grace that taught my heart to fear
And Grace, my fears relieved
How precious did that Grace appear
The hour I first believed
Through many dangers, toils and snares
We have already come
T’was Grace that brought us safe thus far
And Grace will lead us home
And Grace will lead us home
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost but now am found
Was blind but now I see”
Hymn by E. O. Excell and John Newton
It comforted Maria to be reminded of that moment again, as the gardener approached her.
“Good day young lady. ‘Tis a beautiful one isn’t it?” Maria smiled politely, tears still streaming down her cheeks. “You’ve done a great job on this garden. It’s lovely.” The gardener glanced at Maria’s hand and got a knowing smile on his face. “Have you tried the key yet?”
“The key?” Maria replied.
“The cross in your hand is a key my dear. Have you heard of a man named Jesus? That’s the key to His house. It looks like you’ve received an invitation.”
Maria looked at him surprised and confused. She told the man she was at church singing songs, when she looked at the crosses hanging at the front of the church, and the next thing she knew she was in this strange place, feeling the weight of the world on her.
The man listened intently and then smiled again. He asked to sit on the bench beside her and proceeded to explain the invitation.
“I’m guessing that you’ve been wrestling with some things for a while. Your mother’s passing, your father leaving you to figure life out at a young age. You’re bitter about not being able to go to college. You feel inadequate to be a mother yourself. The only area you feel good about is being a wife, but you don’t know how your mother did everything so well. You fear your future, are overwhelmed by everything going on in your life right now, and are too ashamed to tell anyone about your past. Am I close?”
Maria wide-eyed and embarrassed asked the man how he knew all of that.
He continued, “Jesus knows all about it. He knows every single detail about your life and every thought you’ve had, and yet, He thinks you’re perfect. So perfect and beautiful that He died for you. That heaviness you’re feeling right now and the weight of the cross in your hand is because you’re trying to carry your own sin. But you weren’t meant to. Your mother knew Jesus well. She had joy because, even though life was really hard for you all, she knew where her hope and confidence were found. Your mother prayed for you many times each day. She knew what you were missing and desperately wanted you to find the same treasure she did, but you weren’t willing to listen.
"For God loved the world in this way: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life." - John 3:16
We’ve heard your mother’s prayers. We’ve watched you wrestle through your hurt, and now Jesus is calling out to you. That cross in your hand fits into the keyhole on that door right there.
Maria turned to look at the boulder in front of the house. “Excuse me sir, but that looks more like a rock than a door to me. I don’t see any keyhole. And besides, the house looks dark and empty.” The man encouraged her to approach the door and try again. He got up, sniffed a lily, and paused before walking away. “Maria, I almost forgot one thing. You won’t be able to find the keyhole if you’re not ready to accept Jesus’ invitation. Take some time here to think about it before either approaching the door or going home. That door isn’t like any other.”
Maria looked at the key in her hand and then went to thank the man for the chat, but he was gone. She thought about everything he said. It was like a movie reel of her life had passed before her to this point. Then she remembered many conversations her mother had with her about this Jesus. Maria married a Christian man that had the same glow her mother did. He was so good to her. She didn’t deserve it. But that glow he had was what attracted her to him. Maybe that was it. The glow had something to do with loving Jesus. Did He really offer the peace and hope everyone had told her about? Could someone truly love her in spite of the ugliness of her past? Her husband didn’t even know everything. She hadn’t dared to tell him in fear he would leave her. But she was growing tired of all the secrets.
Maria went to the front of the house again and looked at the door. “Jesus, if you’re real, please help me! I’m exhausted from living a hidden life. I’m worn out from this weight that I’ve carried. I am not and will never be good enough for anyone. But, if what my mother, my husband, and this man said is true, I want a relationship with You. I want to feel that love they’ve had, and to glow too. I want to be a light and make a difference in my life for you. Please come and help me. I need You.”
Suddenly, a keyhole appeared in the middle of the boulder. Maria peered into the keyhole, seeing what looked like a rock bed and some white linens lying on the one side neatly folded. “Strange,” she thought. “It looks like a grave”. She put the cross key into the lock and turned. A loud thunderous sound startled her and caused her to topple back. The boulder began to roll and a bright light coming from inside the house almost blinded Maria. She looked away for a moment to refocus her sight. When she turned again, she squinted and saw stairs appear to an upper room.
"There was a violent earthquake, because an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and approached the tomb. He rolled back the stone and was sitting on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing was as white as snow. 4 The guards were so shaken by fear of him that they became like dead men. "The angel told the women, “Don’t be afraid, because I know you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here. For he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay... " Peter...ran to the tomb. When he stooped to look in, he saw only the linen cloths. So he went away, amazed at what had happened." - Matthew 28:5-6, Luke 24:12
She climbed them until she entered a palace filled with people. They were all so full of joy! They welcomed her with great excitement and parted enough to create a path in the middle of the room. Then she saw a large throne on the other side. The King seated on the throne called for Maria with a loud, yet gentle voice. She approached the throne and fell face down. The King got off the throne, reached down, and helped Maria stand. She looked at His hand as He held hers. It had a hole through it. That’s when she realized she was standing before Jesus. His smile warmed every part of her body. She felt radiant before Him, even more than she felt on her wedding day to Charles. Jesus wrapped her in a tender hug and whispered in her ear, “I love you, Maria. Thank you for choosing Me. Your sin is gone. I’ve paid the price. You are free. Now enjoy a life with Me.”
"When I saw him, I fell at his feet like a dead man. He laid his right hand on me and said, “Don’t be afraid. I am the First and the Last, and the Living One. I was dead, but look—I am alive forever and ever, and I hold the keys of death and Hades." - Revelation 1:17-18
"Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have boldness to enter the sanctuary through the blood of Jesus— he has inaugurated for us a new and living way through the curtain (that is, through his flesh)— and since we have a great high priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed in pure water. Let us hold on to the confession of our hope without wavering, since he who promised is faithful" - Hebrews 10:19-23
Before Maria knew it, she was back standing beside her husband at church. They were finishing up the third song, Amazing Grace, and the pastor was getting ready to start his sermon. It’s like time had stopped and no one noticed she had left. The congregation sat down and Charles looked over at her with a big grin on his face. Maria returned the smile and then realized that she had tears running down her face. What a story she had to tell him after church.
"I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." - Galatians 2:20