As Christmas is approaching, I find myself indulging in a story that always re-centers my soul, and reminds me that the scenarios my mind creates often need adjusting! Each year I re-read God In The Doorway, which is found in Annie Dillard's book, Teaching A Stone To Talk." Sit back, and absorb 🙂
God In The Doorway
cold Christmas Eve I was up unnaturally late because we had all gone
out to dinner-my parents, my baby sister, and I. We had come home to a
warm living room, and Christmas Eve. Our stockings drooped from the
mantle; beside them, a special table bore a bottle of ginger ale and a
plate of cookies.
I had taken off my fancy winter coat and was
standing on the heat register to bake my shoe soles and warm my bare
legs. There was a commotion at the front door; it opened, and cold
winter blew around my dress.
Everyone was calling me. “Look who’s
here! Look who’s here!” I looked. It was Santa Claus. Whom I
never-ever-wanted to meet. Santa Claus was looming in the doorway and
looking around for me. My mother’s voice was thrilled: “Look who’s
here!” I ran upstairs.
Like everyone in his right mind, I feared
Santa Claus, thinking he was God. I was still thoughtless and brute,
reactive. I knew right from wrong, but had barely tested the
possibility of shaping my own behavior, and then only from fear, and
not yet from love. Santa Claus was an old man whom you never saw, but
who nevertheless saw you; he knew when you’d been bad or good. He knew
when you’d been bad or good! And I had been bad.
My mother called
and called, enthusiastic, pleading; I wouldn’t come down. My father
encouraged me; my sister howled. I wouldn’t come down, but I could bend
over the stairwell and see: Santa Claus stood in the doorway with night
over his shoulder, letting in all the cold air of the sky; Santa Claus
stood in the doorway monstrous and bright, powerless, ringing a loud
bell and repeating Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas. I never came down.
I don’t know who ate the cookies.
For so many years now I have
known that this Santa Claus was actually a rigged-up Miss White, who
lived across the street, that I confuse the dramatis personae in my
mind, making Santa Claus, God, and Miss White an awesome, vulnerable
trinity. This is really a story about Miss White.
Miss White was
old; she lived alone in the big house across the street. She liked
having me around; she plied me with cookies, taught me things about the
world, and tried to interest me in finger painting, in which she
herself took great pleasure. She would set up easels in her kitchen,
tack enormous slick soaking papers to their frames, and paint
undulating undersea scenes: horizontal smears of color sparked by
occasional vertical streaks which were understood to be fixed kelp. I
liked her. She meant no harm on earth, and yet half a year after her
failed visit as Santa Claus, I ran from her again.
That day, a
day of the following summer, Miss White and I knelt in her yard while
she showed me a magnifying glass. It was a large, strong hand lens. She
lifted my hand and, holding it very still, focused a dab of sunshine on
my palm. The glowing crescent wobbled, spread, and finally contracted
to a point. It burned; I was burned; I ripped my hand away and ran home
crying. Miss White called after me, sorry, explaining, but I didn’t
Even now I wonder: if I meet God, will he take and
hold my bare hand in his, and focus his eye on my palm, and kindle that
spot and let me burn?
But no. It is I who misunderstood
everything and let everybody down. Miss White, God, I am sorry I ran
from you. I am still running, running from that knowledge, that eye,
that love from which there is no refuge. For you meant only love, and
love, and I felt only fear, and pain. So once in Israel love came to us
incarnate, stood in the doorway between two worlds, and we were all
*Taken from…"Teaching a Stone to Talk" by Annie Dillard