The Back Door’s Open

blue open door - photo by Jan Tinneberg on Unsplash

When I was young, Uncle Lou always came through our unlocked back door calling the traditional Slovak greeting, “Pochválený buď Ježiš Kristus,” which meant, “In the name of the Body and Blood of Christ!” We’d hear Uncle Lou before we’d see him, and we’d respond in Slovak, “Na vek! Amen!” which translates to, “Now and forever! Amen!”

Gentler than a knock or a bell, this prayerful message was used when we made return visits, especially to our grandparents, who lived a mile away. Unlike these COVID times, unexpected guests could walk right into houses, be invited to sit, and be served refreshments. Visits could last anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour. They were never scheduled. Our home welcomed people at any hour; Mother or Dad would stop what they were doing to sit in the living room to talk and listen. It was a simple hospitality that I’d love to imitate when our sheltering in place is through.

Reminiscing about my childhood’s open doors resulted from reading a Scripture passage last month: “Look, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut.” (Revelation 3:8)

God has a back door left open for me and eagerly waits for my visits. Like a busy homemaker, God stops his bread baking, wipes his hands on an apron, and immediately offers me refreshment in an elegantly furnished front room. God drops everything when I pop in for an impromptu visit. In truth, God eagerly anticipates my appearance at the door.

“What’s on your mind?” this hospitable God asks. Cherubs run in as we talk, and God quickly gives them messages and sends them on their way.

I hear Jesus coming through the back door, whistling. “Come, sit with us,” God calls to the Son, and when he does, Jesus eagerly asks what we’ve been discussing. I tell him about my loneliness during the pandemic and my wishes for freer, healthier times. Before he can more than nod, I hear a cheery, “Hello-o-o!” and Mary pops around the corner. Everyone jumps up and into a group hug. We laugh in the warmth of a generous familial embrace—something I miss right now.

I repeat what I was just saying to God the baker, and we all talk about everything and nothing. We’re silent at times, sober for a few moments, and laughing at others. An alarm rings on my watch. I have to get back to my regular life; my prayer period is over.

While God’s door is always open for me, I may lock my heart for various reasons. I may believe that, “I’ve got this, God.” God never enters my soul without knocking first and waiting to be invited in. God never imposes. Sometimes, God’s knocking interrupts my busy agenda at unexpected hours. I hope to keep my heart’s door open to God’s surprise visits. When I’m at the end of my rope, Jesus might choose to drop in, remind me to stop obsessing, and ask me to adjust my schedule so as to acknowledge God present in all things. God might stay a while in a comfortable, candid conversation.

Just like the house where I grew up, God’s back door is always open for me. God is always at home, and when I announce, “I’m here in the name of the Body and Blood of Christ!” God shouts, “C’mon in!”

Photo by Jan Tinneberg on Unsplash.

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Loretta Pehanich is a Catholic freelance writer and author of Fleeting Moments: Praying When You Are Too Busy. Loretta has six years experience as a spiritual director and was trained in giving the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. She is also a workshop presenter and retreat leader on Ignatian spirituality and prayer. Loretta is a founder of Women’s Ministry at St. Francis in Sacramento, CA. With more than 20 years in ministry, including Christian Life Community (CLC) and small group leadership, Loretta is an expert in being busy. She and her husband Steve have four children and 10 grandchildren.

23 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you Loretta. That was so beautiful. I hope to practise back door entry many times and surprise
    God. I have experienced and love surprise visits to and from relations and friends. I am excited about trying it with God. Thank you Loretta.

  2. Thanks Loretta. The traditional Slovak greetings look rich for they are accompanied by meaningful acts and memorable sentiments. There is glue and bonding through such little practices. I like it all. Once again, thanks for sharing.

  3. This is a wonderful piece! My Grandmother always had the back door open for everyone. The front was clean and no one used it. I think it has to do with only salesmen and strangers(?) came to the front.
    I love this “God’s back door”. Going to try to keep it- remember God and Grandma. Neat way to pray.

  4. Loretta

    A reminder of living in a small Welsh village. The back door was always open, day and night, and the front door firmly shut! Few people knocked on it; usually, they came in the back way with a greeting!

    How things change, sadly. Except that, as you so eloquently write, the back door is always open where our loving God is concerned.

  5. Thanks a lot, Loretta.
    You reminded me of the time when my mother was still with us. There were always neighbors who came during the time for afternoon snacks. She was always ready with something special for them. As children we welcomed this time. Now that she is gone, we her children, then the grandchildren continue this special velcome treat. Even to the strangers who come to do some repairs in the house.
    Masy good works continue to flourish in these times of uncertainties.

  6. What a lovely, happy Reflection. Thank you to all for sharing some lovely memories. God Bless and a Holy and Happy Christmas to all. A.M.D.G.
    My Dinner table will be just me. So different to many years ago.

  7. “I’ve got this, God”. Sometimes I wish that were true. We continue to learn by God’s grace. Visiting loved ones with all the joy and comfort that brings. Nothing better.

  8. My mom would do that, no matter who it was, family, friend or vacuum salesman all were invited in for coffee & biscotti. When I moved out and my mom was older and lived alone it drove me crazy that she would let strangers come into the house I would tell her it’s not safe but she continued until she moved into an assisted living facility – where her door is still always unlocked and open to anyone (as long as they have a mask). I hope for a renewed hospitality when this all ends. Thank you for the lovely reminder.

  9. Thank you Loretta, This is a gentle reminder that God is ever present. I too would like to be more welcoming in my home. For now, I welcome strangers in my neighborhood when I am walking and have encounters six feet apart.

  10. Loretta, I also grew up in a Czechoslovakian family; our house, my grandmother’s house, and my aunt’s house were located on three streets, one house per street. How I miss opening Granny’s screen door and calling out, “Granny! Where are you?” We sat at the kitchen table drinking drip-o-later coffee and lingering over Granny’s kolaches, strudel, or some freshly baked bread. Some days we talked and laughed. Other days, I wrote out her checks for her bills or took her shopping or out to lunch, always a hamburger with hot black coffee. Thank you for the joy your mediation brought me.

    • Oh, yes! The kolach! My 11-year-old grandson makes it now with his mother. And how about rosky? My mom always tried to get me to eat the lekvar ones (prune butter)! I preferred apricot or walnuts.

  11. Come lord JESUS…come into our hearts….come into our lives….come into our world….

    Thank you dear Loretta. For this wonderful..imagery of our god almighty…in a relaxed FAMILY setting..it set my mind with lot of new energy…Thank you..Thank you very much…very helpful for busy households..

    • Thanks, Ann. Some households are a lot less busy these days, while those with children distance-learning are even busier. Maybe we can keep our doors open, even a crack?

  12. Oh my! My family is Slovak and I remember this greeting so well! I haven’t heard or thought about it in many years. It was so familiar and it brought back warm memories.

    • And I used to think it was something my family just made up!
      I was delighted to hear it’s a strong tradition. I wish I could bring it back to the next generation.

  13. Loretta,
    Such a wonderful reflection. Growing up (and in adulthood) my mother – Loretta would greet everyone who came through the door with a hug and a kiss. Everyone. Relatives, friends in elementary school, high school, college, guy friends, girl friends, girlfriends, spouses, grandchildren. Our kitchen table was the morning and afternoon place where Loretta’s listening sessions took place, usually over a cup of coffee. Our dining room table was the gathering place in the evening for my parents and the nine of us plus the ever present friend or two who had arrived unannounced. A blessing was offered – always the same …”Bless us oh Lord…” and the conversation was abundant. Departure was the same ritual plus a hug to send each person on their way feeling more loved and connected. What a gift- the warmest of welcomes, listening parents, our blessing invitation for God and his human family to join us, a beautiful meal, shared conversation about everything and nothing and a departing hug. It binds us still. Thank you Lorettas for your gifts.

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