Warning: It’s about to get all religious up in here.
“Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who seeks finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.” -Matthew 7:7
I hate it. The verse that goes ask-seek-knock.
I sang it in children’s songs. Knock, and the door shall be opened unto you. Allelu-alleluia. It is crisp and clean. Ask-seek-knock. It is satisfying to say, the decisive “k” at the end.
But I hate it because it is not true. I have asked, I have sought, I have knocked. I asked, and it was not given to me. I sought, and I did not find. I knocked, and the door slammed shut in my face.
I try to hold it close, to be comforted by the parallelism, the crisp, clean “k”s. But after two father deaths and two bouts of depression, it is too much. I put it away, like old clothes that do not fit, like old wineskins that burst with new wine.
I take it out again, ask-seek-knock, in a prison. The very place where it should not be, where no doors are being opened unto anyone. We struggle with the verses, inmates who ask but are not paroled, not reunited with their children. And us “outsiders,” who grieve our own losses, infertility and abuse, death and depression. It is one verse among many. One verse in a whole Bible full of stories, with Jesus asking for this cup to pass and not receiving. Paul seeking for this thorn to be taken out of flesh and finding it only wedged deeper in. Jacob knocking, asking for his blessing, and getting only his hip knocked out of joint.
“Still, I wonder who we’re asking,” the prison chaplain says. “Do we only ask God silently in our room? Or do we ask God out loud, looking into the eyes of someone with skin on?“
And so I ask God while I’m looking my friends straight in the eye. I ask for an extension on a paper, the only time I’ve done it when there wasn’t a death involved. I ask to drop a class, pass/fail another. I ask to stay with friends at the Lodge when my husband is out of town. I realize that my mind is more crazy than sane, and I ask the people who love me to tell me who I really am. And they are ruthless with their love, with making me see every gift, every talent, every beauty in me.
Sometimes I don’t ask. I just tell. I am honest about the money being tight, and a gift card appears. I tell some classmates that I sometimes wonder why I am even in seminary, and there is a note, telling me exactly why. I tell Bonnie and Jenn that I feel hopeless with my sobs, and they appear unsolicited, with a thick milkshake, strawberry cheesecake flavor.
I tell the group of friends about my husband’s sadness, deeper than my own. I ask without asking, and it is given to me, hands firm on my back, voices lifted, not just in calm prayer but in angry prayer, desperate prayer. I cry with the weight of it.
I knock, and then others knock, too. And it looks like the door may not budge. But we wedge it open, all of us together. We pull with all our strength. And it opens, just an inch. Just enough for a sliver of light to break through.