As our son was growing up, he went through all kinds of phases. During one of those phases, he became enamored with handcuffs. Every time that he went to the toy store, he had to have one of those pairs of toy handcuffs. These toy handcuffs came with a button built into them that you could push and unlock them. Our son would clamp them onto all kinds of things, including me. He played with these little handcuffs constantly.
All went well with this little game until we arrived in Silverton, Colorado, on vacation, and he went shopping with his grandfather. The two of them went into an Old West store and came out with some surprisingly realistic-looking handcuffs, complete with a key.
They joined us in a restaurant across the street. The restaurant was filled with people, service was slow, and our son was restless. To pass the time, he handcuffed himself to a chair—and then he lost the key. We began a desperate search for the key as our son became increasingly panicked. As he whooped and hollered, he attracted a lot of attention. We finally located the key and set him free.
Locks and keys can be helpful, but it’s been my experience that they can also be a headache. Instead of locking the crooks out of things, we more often lock ourselves out of things. I have locked myself out of my truck several times. It’s frustrating, inconvenient, and embarrassing to lock yourself out of your own truck.
We do that with life. Hans Sachs wrote of a family with two brothers, the younger of whom had a dread of open doors. He had to have every door in the house locked to feel secure. His older brother became increasingly impatient with him. Once, attempting to cure his brother of his phobia, he said, “One day I will lock you up in a room with all the doors open.”
Ernest Campbell was so impressed with that story that he preached a sermon and wrote a book with this title, “Locked in a Room with Open Doors”. Campbell said that, to be sure, sometimes people are locked in a room with “shut” doors. They can’t open the doors to decent jobs, to a good education, or to better health. But Campbell said that sometimes we can be a prisoner with all the doors open. The problems are not “out there;” they are inside us.
Sometimes hatred can lock us in a room with open doors. We are prisoners of the desire to get even. Sometimes our worry and our fear lock us in a room with open doors. We find ourselves unable to get out and enjoy life.
You must be careful with locks. They can lock others out, or they can lock you in.
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LYNN JONES is a retired pastor, supply preacher and author who lives in Oxford. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.