When God closes a door, He opens a window.
We’ve all heard this saying, and may have used it ourselves when encouraging a friend or family member who doesn’t get something they’ve wanted or worked hard for, or when they suffer a setback in their lives or career. I’ve been thinking about that saying a lot lately; how well-meaning it is, and the grains of truth in it. There are instances in my life when I wanted a certain outcome but it didn’t pan out. I became angry, sad, sometimes jealous of others’ good fortune, and wondered, “What now?” Sometimes an answer came quickly, but often it took the passage of time to see how God used what I perceived as a lost “golden opportunity” to bring about something that was ultimately better for me. Those are the times we all experience that require faith and trust, and lots of prayer and discernment. By faith we know that God doesn’t play games with our lives, arbitrarily blessing us, or not. But does He really close doors and open windows?
My parents brought me to the threshold…[and] turned me over to their son and to the man who would become like a second son to them.
I think about doors and windows, and remember our wedding day. According to the marriage ritual in the Eastern Catholic Church, my parents brought me to the threshold of our parish church, and Keith was waiting for me to join him there. My brother, Fr. Frank, stood just inside the nave. My parents turned me over to their son and to the man who would become like a second son to them. After exchanging rings Fr. Frank led us across the threshold through the door of the church, down the aisle toward the Royal Doors that lead to the sanctuary. We symbolically left the natural world and entered together into the supernatural. There, God would create a bond between us and with Him, transforming us into a sign of His love for the Church and the world. Like so many other couples entering into marriage, the door was opened to so many possibilities, and we walked through it with trust and confidence.
I’ve written here before about meeting my husband later in life, not because I delayed marriage in favor of a career or to hold onto my freedom. We simply didn’t find each other until we were in our forties. We knew that the chances of getting pregnant were not in our favor the older we got, yet we were still optimistic that God would bless us in our effort to do everything “the right way.” Charts, needles, pills, pregnancy tests and advice from more people than we ever asked for it, all yielded the same result: negative.
Over the years many doors opened and closed in our marriage: with our careers, in our relationships, and with our fertility. When medical interventions failed, and job changes, deaths in our family and financial upheaval closed off the opening to adoption, we were left sitting together with our backs leaned against the door to our expectations for what married life would be.
And then, my body was done. The window on our fertility has closed.
Some of our friends and family members have recently welcomed their first child, or their fifth or sixth. I look at them and think, “You’re in the springtime of life, reaping and sowing, cultivating a family to full bloom.” Then I look to other women I know who seem to be in a perpetual winter, the promise of fruitfulness lying dormant, unable to be awakened despite their best efforts. Some of these women have pushed their bodies through surgeries and rounds of blood tests, hormone treatments and medications, only to get yet another negative pregnancy test. Others have one child, or even two, but their efforts to expand their family yield only frustration and sadness. Many more than we realize know the particular pain of their husband’s infertility, a suffering so often left unspoken. Still others have conceived, but bear a loss I can’t begin to grasp when the precious baby is lost in miscarriage or soon after birth.
My grief over infertility is my own, and my personal experiences have shaped my response to it. But I am ever more aware there are so many women out there who have been living in the harsh cold of infertility or loss of a child, their emotions and spirits exposed and left raw and hurting. They perceive that doors and windows have been shut on them, leaving them out in the frigid darkness.
But Jesus says to us: Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, [then] I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me. (Revelation 3:20)
If we focus only on what is closed to us, especially in our infertility struggle, we may easily lapse into bitterness. We might walk through the neighborhood of our relationships and wish that what we perceive to be their beautifully adorned doors and windows could be ours, not considering that the people on the other side of them deal with their own suffering. Maybe we spend so much time on what’s open and closed to us that we can’t really experience the spontaneity, the adventure, and yes, even the sufferings of life as our own. A focus on doors and windows can reduce life to calculation, and twist discernment of God’s will for us into agonizing over whether we’ve accurately “read the signs.” We may become disoriented and paralyzed, afraid to decide to move forward, or stay where we are in stillness and anticipation. Instead, it may be more emotionally and spiritually healthy to swing open the door to our hearts with abandon so that God can enter and bring us peace. Rather than waiting for Him to open windows so that we can escape from where we are, we can open the window into our souls and let the cool breeze of the Holy Spirit refresh and awaken us to the unexpected yet wonderful possibilities we might otherwise miss.
Perhaps it’s time to rethink the old saying about doors and windows, especially in the approach to our fertility. When I first began working through our infertility and the grief that comes with it, I feared that God purposely closed off the possibility of fruitfulness in our marriage for some mysterious reason – perhaps due to my sinfulness. It’s taken time and prayer to understand that our infertility does not close us off from the possibility of fruitfulness, and that God isn’t a supernatural doorman who assigns us specific doors and windows. He is a loving Father, offering us the grace and gift of discernment to enter through some of them, and walk by others. God goes with us, wherever life takes us, and leads us on a path to life.
Doors and windows open and close, in life and in our fertility. But God never shuts us out from His love.
Ann M. Koshute lives in Central Pennsylvania with her husband, Keith.