The knock at the door was soft but certain. I thought I could make it out above the sound of the news anchor on TV. As I diverted my eyes from the screen, I could see the dark form of someone through the door’s cut glass. “Must be another Jehovah’s Witness with literature in hand or maybe some supposed college student selling magazines or books to make money for the next semester. Too tall for a Girl Scout and that’s too bad because I could use some Thin Mints right about now.”
TV muted I dropped the footrest on my recliner and slowly slid out and onto the floor. Perhaps my delay will cause him to place his literature in the space between the door and doorframe and make his way to the next house. No such luck! The knocking continued. It was not rushed. There was not incessant, demanding pounding. It was just a steady, consistent rapping of knuckles against wood.
Nearing the door the distorted image became a bit clearer. Though still obscured by the geometrical cuts in the glass, the features were too familiar not to recognize. “No! Not Him! Not now! I’m not ready!”
My eyes did a quick 360 degree glance at my home. Dishes sat by the sink. Crumbs dotted the top of the island. Black dog hair seemed to be everywhere! That’s odd; Mia should be barking her head off by now. She was soundly sleeping.
And look at me! Still in my sleeping pants, same t-shirt I had been slipping on after work all week, unshaven, what little hair I had I was sure stood at every possible angle simultaneously. A small remnant of the previous night’s steak on the back of my tongue reminded me that my teeth had not be brushed let alone flossed. What’s more, my hands were remarkably dirty. Had I gone to bed with them like this? No way I’m opening the door for Him like this.
The knocking continued – no harder – no louder – but persistent.
The water from the kitchen faucet was colder than I remember it ever being. Not waiting for it to warm I pumped an overly generous amount soap into my hands and began to rub them together furiously. As the bubbles drained off into the clockwise death spiral of water into the drain, I noticed my hands were no cleaner than before. If anything, they were worse. In fact, the grime covered my arms past my elbows and up to the fraying sleeves on my shirt.
More knocking. The panic was setting in. “Just leave,” I thought. Or did I say it out loud?
The mirror beside the door is small, but at that moment is was far too large for my liking. My face filled it from edge to edge. All thoughts of misshapen hair and razor stubble had vanished. What was this? Had I sleep walked in a pig pen? Clumps of dried mud hung to my beard. Smudges of who knows what covered my face. And then I caught scent of something that nearly brought me to the point of nausea.
I quickly looked to see if I had stepped in a “gift” from the dog or cat. But the odor didn’t come from any external source. It was me! “No! No! No! This cannot be happening … not with Him at the door.”
At that moment the knocking ceased. For a split second I was elated. He would not have to see me like this. I could somehow sneak into the shower and stand there until both dirt and odor washed down the drain. The feeling, however, did not last. Relief gave way to panic. He was gone. He left. Jesus, the One whom I confessed as Savior and embraced as Lord, had given up on me and walked away.
I dropped my filthy head into my even-filthier hands and wept. The tears crept down my cheeks making muddy channels in the grimy crust that clung to my face. I sank to the floor as wave after wave of hopelessness swept over me. I came to the sudden realization that even the harshest cleanser would never make me clean again. This was my sin in all its ugliness. I had never seen it before but I could never forget erase the memory of it.
The silence was broken only by pitiful sobs that I recognized were coming from me. The knocking had ceased. I felt so very alone in my sin, so very hopeless. I wanted to peak around the corner. Perhaps He was still there. Perhaps He could hear me and would feel pity for my plight. But I could not move from that spot on the floor. After all, why would He be there? Why would He stay? He knew what was on the other side of the door. Cut glass and painted wood could no more hide me from His eyes than the bushes concealed Adam and Eve in the Garden. Then … the silence was broken.
“Jimmy,” came a voice so clear and gentle that it could have been whispered in my ear. “Jimmy, I am here. May I come in?”
He was there, and the moment of decision was mine. I could not hide. I dared not hide. No person saw the sin that clung to me. Until that moment, I had not seen it so clearly. Yet Jesus had seen it. He knew what I had kept hidden. He knew the ugly details of every angry outburst, whispered curse, wayward thought, unkind action, and all-too-frequent hypocrisy. The “little sins” that I carried rather than confess were utterly hideous in the presence of pure holiness.
Did I crawl or walk on my knees? I do not remember. But I could feel the metal of the door knob in my left hand. It was strangely warm. I could not look up into the face that looked down at me through the glass. I turned the knob with an odd mixture of anticipation and dread. As the door swung on its hinges I realized that He would be fully justified to condemn me, but the One who had refused to cast a stone at the woman caught in adultery did not come to condemn.
Light washed into the room. I could not look up but through tear-filled eyes watched as a bare foot step onto the tile floor. It was then that I saw the wound. It was not so much a scar. It was almost as if the nail had pierced it that day! I wanted to reach out to touch it but I dared not stir from the small space that I occupied in the midst of His glorious presence.
A whiter than white robe fell over the foot as the other joined it. Jesus was in my home. He was in my kitchen. He did not appear to notice or care about the dog hair, crumbs or dishes. His attention was focused on me. At that moment I wished I could disappear. Though not truly hidden from His sight before, now there was no place to even pretend to hide. But I did not want Him to leave. A flicker of hope sparked in me. A memory of a college apartment filled my mind – kneeling – weeping – confessing – believing – forgiven – made new.
The filth that covered me was not an illusion. It was real, very real, but it was also not mine to keep. I knew that Jesus had died for my sins … all of them. I knew that I need not carry the weight or guilt of this sin; I only needed confess it and leave it behind. My lips, suddenly parched, spoke dryly, “I am so sorry.”
I did not see Him reach down. I didn’t have to. He touched me. The touch was gentle and light but carried an indescribable glorious weight. Light more brilliant than a thousand suns filled the room. For a moment I felt as if everything would be burned up including me, but somehow through the light I saw His face. It was inches from mine. His finger reached to me and wiped a tear from my cheek. His lips touched my forehead in a divine kiss. Did He not care that I was filthy? “You are forgiven. You are mine.” The words tender, and I knew they were true.
A breeze moved the folds of his robe and caressed my face. I unclenched my hands that had been buried into my chest and saw they were clean, spotless. I inhaled a deep breath; the putrid smell was gone. The air more fresh than I ever remember it being. I closed my eyes tightly trying to etch the image, the smells, the feeling into my mind. I did not want to let this moment fade.
I opened my eyes, and all was it had been before the knocking began. I sat in my recliner with feet propped up and a news anchor repeating for the hundredth time the events of the preceding day. My dog snored on the couch. My cat was curled up in her bed by the coffee table. My brown Bible lay open beside me. I looked around in stunned amazement. Had it all been a dream? How could it be? It was so very real?
In a panic I turned my palms up and rotated my hands. No stains. No crusty dirt. No nauseating smell. I exhaled an audible sigh of relief. Then my eyes drifted again to the Bible at my side. My hands slowly moved to pick it up. I was glad for the feel of worn leather in my fingers and for the rustle of sometimes-too-thin pages. My sight immediately fell upon these words, “Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.”
I looked up at the door; there was no one on my doorstep. I listened; there was no gentle and persistent knock on the door. It was a dream … just a dream … but not just a dream. The same divine breeze once more blew across my cheek. A small creased the corners of my mouth. Joy welled up in my heart. He said He would come in if I knocked, but He wanted more than just to share a meal with me. I know He wants to share my life.
(The quoted Scripture is Revelation 3:20 from the New Living Translation.)