On closing and opening doors
FROM THE STANDS - Domini M. Torrevillas (The Philippine Star) - April 11, 2019 - 12:00am

Now and then I grieve over things I’ve done, over not doing what I should have done, over not forgiving and forgetting those who broke my heart.   

How timely that I received a copy of a homily Dr. Mariano Apelado delivered  last Sunday  at the Church of the Risen Lord at the University of the Philippines Diliman campus, where he is the pastor. It helped brush my tears away. And made me smile with my heart. 

Dr. Apelado, former president of Union Theological Seminary, preached about “closing the doors of yesterday in order to move on courageously, creatively, confidently to the open door of the future.”

The text for his sermon was from a reading in the book of Revelation. “See I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. . . Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth” (Revelation 3: 8, 10).

The pastor then highlighted lessons from the text regarding the closing and opening of doors. “One, indeed, there is an open door to the future. Two, those who want to love,  one may have little strength, but they continue on faithfully. Three, God will be with the faithful so that they may overcome the trials along the way. Four, the faithful continue to strive on. These  lessons are sources of encouragement to close doors of the past and enter open doors into the future, navigate courageously and creatively into an exciting, exhilarating and often electrifying life. I will identify some doors that we need to close and doors that we need to open into the future.” 

On the first door, he  suggested we close “is the door to past victories so as to navigate courageously, creatively and collectively to win the future.”

He related how a basketball coach saw his team lose during the last two minutes — a game after they had been winning 98% of the game. 

“Immediately after the game, the coach said to the team, ‘We could not stand success in our game, could we? We had been winning then we became cocky. We had a good lead, and then we just quit. We lost our concentration and quit. We lost our intensity and quit. We lost our focus and quit. We abandoned our game plan and quit. We stayed in our room of success and refused to enter the door of victory. Once again, we did it – snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. We succeeded to lose.” 

“Now, isn’t this an example of not closing the door to success and then eventually lose?” Dr. Apelado asked.  “Our success can ruin us, and lead us to defeat. So, let us close that door of past success, enter the open door to the future and press on towards victory. Let us follow Paul’s admonition, “. . . forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal.”

 “Another door we need to close is the door to past failures. A newspaper reporter inquired from a psychologist and asked, ‘Doctor, what do you really do for those who come to you for counselling and treatment?’”

The psychologist answered, “Our objective is to free the patient from the tyranny of the past.”

“True, many of us have a past that hampers, haunts and hinders us – painful mistakes, embarrassing failures, humiliating defeats, shameful sins. Let us set ourselves free from the tyranny of past pains, humiliations and indignities.

“The truth is,  indeed, the wonderful exciting news is this: God has provided for us a spiritual eraser system that can erase the pains, the indignities and the humiliations of past failures.

“Let us be comforted by the exhortation John, ‘If we confess our sins, God who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness’” (I John 1: 10).

 “There is a  third door we need to close, close securely, and this is the door to unforgiveness of ourselves of past hurts, past pains and past heartaches that dampen our spirits, drain our energies and defile our soul,” the pastor said. “And of others who had caused us hurts, pains and heartaches.”

Dr. Paul Tournier, in his book, entitled, A Doctor’s Case Book in Light of the Bible, writes of the case of a woman he had been treating for anemia. He had tried all kinds of medicines, vitamins, diet and exercise, but to no effective result.

As a last resort, Dr. Tournier brought his patient to the hospital where the laboratory technician, after a thorough checkup, discovered her to be in pink health.

Then Dr. Tournier, himself, checked and got the same results. She had been healed completely. No more anemia. No more dizziness. No more unpleasantness. He asked her, “Has anything extraordinary happened in your life lately?”

“Yes,” the patient replied, “I have forgiven someone against whom I have had a nasty grudge for many years. I have forgiven myself for not forgiving her. We got reconciled. We are friends again. I can now say, ‘Yes’ to life.

Said Dr. Apelado: “What a message wrapped up in a story! What an important lesson! What a wonderful news! Forgiveness! The medicine is to close the doors to past heartaches, heart breaks, heart bruises and personal humiliations. Forgive.”

 “So, then our message today is to close three gates of the past that hinder our living pleasantly and fruitfully in the present: first, the gate of past successes and not bask in the old glory; second, the gate of past failures and not be enslaved by the tyranny of past sins; third, the gate of past sins and receive God’s forgiveness and forgive others of their sins and remember their sin no more.

“Yes, and then let us follow Paul’s inspiring call, ‘Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on towards the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.’

“Finally, let us listen to God’s reassuring invitation, ‘I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut.’

“Let us enter the door of faith, and walk on together confidently, courageously and creatively. “

Email: dominitorrevillas@gmail.com

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