Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Gate

By Steven

Within the last week I had two very different reactions to an everyday type of situation.  One reaction I believe was perfect, the other was far from it.    I'm not one to over-spiritualize things; honestly, I tend to look down on those that do.  Nevertheless, I do believe that sometimes an everyday, common occurrence reflects a bigger, more significant thing.  Here, in my opinion, is one such story.
The Setting

We currently live in a gated community.  What do you think of when someone uses the term "Gated Community"?  THIS isn't it.  Our present abode is a 2nd-story apartment in south Dallas where iron bars surround the 10-building complex to keep out the thugs.  Moreover, there is one usable entrance and exit that happens to have an iron-bar gate that slides open ever-so slowly when someone punches the correct 5 digit code.  Off to one side of the vehicle gate is a smaller gate for tenants who might be walking (or running) in or out.  This ped gate does not open by a key pad, but rather, by an old fashion key.

Episode One: The response of perfect patience

The other day I had left the protection of the fence for a jog.  I was wearing some really cool Nike running shorts - the kind that has a lining on the inside which allows me to be "free", if you know what I mean.  Anyway, I didn't want to carry a set of bulky, pokey keys with me so I took the chance that upon my return I'd be able to follow a car through the open gate.  Alas, after my 25 kilometer jog, ahem, I found myself locked outside.  At those moments I was aware of my thoughts and emotions.  To my delight I had no anxiety, no impatience, no fear and no frustration.  I knew it was only a matter of time before someone in a car wanted in or out.  I honestly didn't care if I had to wait 15 seconds or 15 minutes; I was not doomed to be shut out.  I was at peace with where I was because I knew that I would eventually get to where I wanted to be.

Episode Two: The response of a perfect jerk

Just a couple days after episode one I had a totally different reaction to that stupid gate.  (Notice how the gate that was there for my family's protection is now that STUPID gate.)  This time I'm in a car with my kids trying to leave the complex.  Usually exiting goes off without a hitch.  One can easily pull straight up to the key pad, enter the numbers and Open Sesame! The gate maneuvers to the right making for a smooth leave.  This time, however, the poor damsel in the compact car ahead of me was not able on her own to open the gate.  No problem.  She thoughtfully pulled up so that I could have access to the key pad.  To my dismay, although I punched in all the right numbers, no gate response.  Uhgg!  Come on people, don't you know that I have the right to leave at my whim and I should not be hampered by malfunctions.  It took me all of 3 seconds to call the campus security department which I have on speed dial.  (btw, our apartment complex is part of a college campus.)

The conversation went something like this:
Me - "Hi, I'm trying to leave my apartment complex but the gate won't open.  Can you send someone to help?"  Said with great annoyance.
Security guy - "Are you sure you've pulled up close enough for the sensor.."
Me, interrupting him - "I know what I'm doing, I've entered the right code and I'm on the sensor.  It's just not working."  Said with even more annoyance.
Security guy - "Okay, we'll send someone over."
Me - "Thanks."  {Click} (Do cell phones actually click?)

Now this exchange might strike you as pretty benign.  I didn't yell, curse, or  use insults.  I'm pretty much only guilty of being slightly rude and impatient, right?  Here's the deal.  About 2 seconds after I hung up, I noticed something different on the key pad - the tiny red and yellow lights at the top were no longer lit.  So I tried my code again and wham-mo! The gate began to yield to my will.  Another fact that may or may not be relevant is that after hearing the security guy say his second line, I think I recognized him as a friend of mine, but it felt too late to change my tone.  Here I am, impatiently talking to guy, perhaps a friend, as if I've been tremendously wronged, just to find out that there was no problem, only a negligible delay of say... 30 seconds, tops. *

The contrast to my attitude and response a few days earlier is huge.  Why the difference?  Too much MSG in my diet?  I don't know.  I'm actually not so concerned with why at this point; we all have our moments.  What strikes me is how relevant the whole scene seems to be to the bigger picture of my life right now.  

My family is in transition.  We are waiting for a gate to open.  Until it does, we feel stuck.  But what can seem like a major inconvenience in the moment, might really only be a brief postponement, perhaps even a respite.

I know that the gate that seems now to shut us in will soon open.  I truly believe that.  In the meantime, I pray that I'm not a jerk to those around me, including my wife and kids.  I pray that I can wait patiently without anxiety and stress.  I know this is how the Father would have me wait.  I know this is how my family would have me wait.  Now it's only a matter of getting some perspective and being confident in the Gatekeeper.

* I was thoughtful enough to immediately call the security guy back and tell him that the gate opened.  To my chagrin, I didn't include the apology that was due him.  Perhaps he'll read this and forgive me anyway.


  1. All too often, I find myself in episode 2. Or maybe, those are just more memorable cause I spend so much time kicking myself later. The only time I yell at my children is because I am impatient, not because they've done something horribly wrong.

    Waiting is so hard to do. I heard one time that the "wait" in Is. 40:31 is not sitting there tapping my toes with my hands on my hips. but rather as a waitress in a restaurant "waiting"... serving others and God and He will renew us.

    don't know if that is pertinent to what you just wrote, I just thought of it. :)

    oh yeah, and this: "don't be weary. don't be weary... " love that song!

  2. Steve, you said he was your friend. Whether he is or not, just call him and apologize. He will understand. We all have bad moments. :) Jane Spencer