Opening to the Spirit
Today’s word: Key
) I have a memory of receiving a key to my first apartment when I was 18. I shared the space with my sisters when I began university. There was a feeling of pride about paying rent, having a key, and unlocking the door as I returned from classes. This is a familiar rite of passage. But our family lived in the country and rarely locked the door to our farmhouse. The key was a symbol of adulthood and using it felt good.
The word key is usually used with the word lock. A key is a tool to open something and perhaps uncover a mystery. Perhaps an old chest, when unlocked, contains treasure. Maybe the key to an old storage locker holds adventure, or a piece of our history. Why then sometimes, are we so reluctant to use it.
My parents were both teachers and emphasized that education was the key to our future. Scientific disciplines hold the secrets of the world we live in. Why then are so many reluctant to believe in science? A recent survey found that 43% of Canadians who responded said science was “a matter of opinion”. Even worse, 33% said science can't be trusted because it is always subject to change. These science sceptics are burying the knowledge that could unlock our future security. In education, in science, we have been given a valuable key. Let's not be afraid to trust it and learn.
) As a child I used to have a personal diary that came with a lock and a tiny key. I locked it faithfully after every writing session, thus guaranteeing that my younger brothers would not have access to all my secrets.
I think it was the beginning of setting healthy boundaries between my private life and public one.
With the advent of the modern electronic communication tools of Facebook, Twitter and text-sharing, this notion of privacy is becoming cloudy. I often hear people say, “If I have nothing to hide, why would I care?” As a result we now know when our friend wakes up with a headache and when someone at the office is having relationship problems. Wisdom tells us, however, that some thoughts and feelings do better locked up in a diary.
Words that are broadcast can never be taken back. Words written in haste and in anger may be therapeutic, but they may also undermine a relationship that is worth preserving. Although transparency is a much- lauded quality in the public domain, I would think twice about the kinds of information I share and who I give the key of my diary to.
) Keys unlock what's closed: doors, chests, yes - and secret passageways, old habits, healing wounds, minds and hearts. I remember being in awe of the school janitor who carried on his belt an enormous ring of clanking keys of all shapes and sizes. If you needed to get into anywhere, you just had to track him down.
Blog posts and courses these days offer the keys to instant success, healthy living, understanding, how to forgive, or love, or find enlightenment. Key - as in "key word" - is marketing lingo for a lot of practical, popular or life-changing wisdom.
A profound insight came to me during a guided meditation about keys. We all sat in a circle around a lit candle, and consented to be led through an exercise in learning to trust intuition, that inner knowing we all have but are often too wary or distracted to consult. First we dropped any notions of what needed to be unlocked. Open to discovery, we closed our eyes and practiced deep breathing. Now follow, we were told, the winding wooded path, cross an open meadow, find the bubbling stream. Take the suspension bridge over a deep ravine. Leaving the bridge, I descended in my mind's eye a steep staircase, each step transparent. Looking down, I imagined falling through to the depths below. The retreat leader then surprised us, "Now before the door, you will be handed a key. Feel its weight; explore its shape in your hand. Don't reach out yet to open the door in front of you. Instead, look for the person who just handed you the key. Spend some time with that person." I knew immediately who that person was, and who I needed to ask for help.
Who holds the keys is as important as finding what's behind the door. Curiously, when I did finally turn the key in the lock, the door, already unlocked, swung open freely before me. Do you know who are the key holders in your life? Perhaps it's you!
) Many of us have a key to our home hidden in a strategic place: under a particular rock, in the mouth of a ceramic frog, or beneath the flower pot. Many times I have been given instructions about how to get into other peoples’ homes when they are away and it is a special privilege to know the secret. It always makes me feel a bit like a spy or a detective when I find the key and let myself in.
Education can be like that, and so can our relationships with people around us. When you pay attention and know where to look, you can gain entry into worlds that, before this, were locked and unknown. The key to education might be research and careful reading. The key to entering the world of another person might be good questions and careful attention.
One relationship that needs no key is the relationship we have with God. Jesus said, “knock and the door will be opened to you”. We don’t need to pass tests or even to spend the time that it normally takes to be trusted. The poet Rumi tells us that when we take a step toward God, God comes running to us. Although there are many pathways to a deeper knowledge and love of God, such as the study of theology and the spiritual practices of prayer, the first door is opened wide as soon as we ask. No hidden key required!
One word, four voices - now it's your turn to reflect: If there were a "key" to everything, who has it and what would you want to unlock?
Rev. Mead Baldwin pastors the Waterville & North Hatley pastoral charge; Rev. Lynn Dillabough is now Rector of St. Paul's in Brockville ON. She continues to write for this column as a dedicated colleague with the Eastern Townships clergy writing team; Rev. Lee Ann Hogle ministers to the Ayer’s Cliff, Magog & Georgeville United Churches; Rev. Carole Martignacco is Consulting Minister to UU Estrie-unitarian Universalists in North Hatley.