“…and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Matthew 7:8)
Unlike asking and seeking, which are easily done in our minds or our hearts with little consequence or true commitment, knocking is a physical action with consequences. When we knock on a door, we are anticipating, first and foremost, that the door will be opened (but we also take the risk that it may not). Secondly, we may wonder who or what we will find behind the door, (though we also run the risk that it may just be an empty room). Finally, we anticipate that when/if the door is opened, we will be required to take ownership for our actions (why were we knocking?) and maybe even state our purpose for doing so. We may wonder what we will say.
My brother and I grew up in an era where school fundraisers were still expected to be sold through door-to-door sales, that is, literally knocking on our neighbors’ doors and stating our purpose for being there. Neither my brother nor I were good salespeople. Even before the door was opened, we realized we hated asking our neighbors (or sometimes total strangers) for anything. Why would they want our candy bars? we’d think. Why should they support our school? Before we even asked, we were always anticipating a “no” (but still hated hearing it). At the same time, we were surprised (and maybe a little disappointed in ourselves at our lack of belief) when the answer was “yes, please.” As we grew older, we had a greater awareness of how awkward it could be for others to be put in a position of having to tell us “no,” because we believed that even when their budgets or nutritional limitations didn’t allow for such purchases, many still hated to tell a child seeking charity “no.” My brother, being older, came into awareness of this fact sooner than I, and so he tailored his sales pitch to one that made it easier for our potential customers to say no. His stellar line? “You don’t want to buy any candy bars, do you?” That way, saying “no” was more of a confirmation of the obvious, than a rejection of our inquiry (and perhaps, by extension, a rejection of our very selves).
With that experience in mind, I am convinced that through his final directive to “knock,” Jesus wants to make sure our spiritual journeys are ones of action and risk, not just contemplation. Lest we forget, the Israelites were all too content to ask… and ask… and ask God to deliver them from their life of slavery, so much so that they nearly missed the opportunity (could not “see”) to escape when it was presented to them. Even Moses, at that point seemed to be convinced that all they needed was a deeper faith in God, “Do not be afraid, stand firm and see the deliverance that the Lord will accomplish for you today…the Lord will fight for you and you have only to keep still.” (Exodus 14:13-14) But God makes clear what is needed at this point in their journey is not greater faith, but action. God responds to Moses, a man of the deepest faith, “Why do you cry out to me? Tell the Israelites to go forward.” (Exodus 14:15) I think it is easy to convince ourselves that since Jesus has won the battle over evil, that greater faith is all that is required of us. For His part, though, our Triune God makes it clear to us, time and time again, that very often the only way that we can know the depth of our faith is through our actions.
The God of the Old Testament says, “Go forward.”
Jesus says, “Knock and it will be opened.”
And the Holy Spirit itself is God in motion.
One thing is clear to me in all of this: that we are called not just to have faith, but also to act on our faith, even when– or perhaps especially when– we cannot know the outcome of our actions, or what remains hidden behind each and every door. The only thing we can know for sure is the level of commitment we have to our relationship—both God’s and ours—when we dare to take action, even while questions remain.
For, like the wounds of Jesus for Thomas, who says, in essence “unless I touch and see his wounds I will not believe” (John 20: 25), we will likely never understand what it is we are meant to “ask” and “see” in our own spiritual experience unless we also move forward and knock…and feel our knuckles against the wood.