Many people have a version of this dream: You find yourself in a long corridor with many doors to the right and left. As you walk along, some of the doors have signs on them telling what you may find within, but you cannot decide which one to open. At long last you come to a door that reads, “Whosoever Will, Let Him Enter.”
Holding your breath, you swing open the door to see a large banquet hall with music playing, and guests seated enjoying themselves. You walk past the seats until you find one that is empty, and upon the fine china plate before it you see a card with your name written on it.
“How did the host know I would choose this one door from among all the doors in the hallway?”
You glance around the room suspiciously and walk back to the door where you entered the banquet hall. On this side of the door it reads, “Chosen From Before The Foundation of the World” (Ephesians 1:4).
This has been called Ironside’s Paradox, after the late H.A. Ironside who proposed it as a solution to the difficulty of understanding free will and foreordination. On one side you were free to choose or reject any door, but on the other side, it was known to God beforehand what you would freely choose.
My wife Sandra had a similar dream in which she walked the corridor with Jesus. He offered her the same freedom to enter any door she wished, but she could not decide. Inside one room, she saw herself living near her grandchildren and having the joy of watching them grow. Inside another she saw herself achieve her professional ambitions. In yet another she ran a powerful ministry for women.
As I listened to her tell the dream, I thought, If Jesus was there in the hallway, I would not choose any door, I would want to stay with him in the corridor.
Upon further reflection, I realized that I missed the point of it altogether. Jesus is with us, whether we stay in the hallway, or venture through any of the doors. We are free to choose or not, but there are consequences associated with every door we either enter or pass by.
Jesus illustrated it this way:
“For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them. And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey. Then he who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents. And likewise he who had received two gained two more also. But he who had received one went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord’s money. After a long time the lord of those servants came and settled accounts with them.
“So he who had received five talents came and brought five other talents, saying, ‘Lord, you delivered to me five talents; look, I have gained five more talents besides them.’ His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’ He also who had received two talents came and said, ‘Lord, you delivered to me two talents; look, I have gained two more talents besides them.’ His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’
“Then he who had received the one talent came and said, ‘Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed. And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours.’
“But his lord answered and said to him, ‘You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed. So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest. So take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents.
‘For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth’ (Matthew 25:14-30 NKJV).
The long corridor is our life, which offers everyone many opportunities according to our abilities. The decision to stay in the hallway is like the unprofitable servant who buried what he had and gave it back without any increase. We are supposed to experience increase with the life God gave us.
How I do it is entirely up to me. Inside every door is a mistake I will make, and a lesson I will learn, and redemption from Jesus for whatever went wrong. He walks along with me all my life – redeeming my mistakes – so that in the end, I grow.
We may grow in wisdom, in love, in faith, in power – or sometimes in brokenness, humility, and dependence upon Jesus, but every door we enter brings increase.
I had it backward. I can’t go back and open all the doors I passed by when I was younger, but I can open more doors now, and keep on doing it until I come to the banquet hall.