That chaotic lot of old keys

The drawer for keys without locks

In all the houses I’ve lived in, ( I have changed homes 42 times in 76 years) there was always a certain space for old keys. It may have been the first drawer in the hall chest of drawers, or the first drawer in the kitchen closest to the door, or a board with hooks inside the front door, there may have been a key cabinet in the hall. In my case, often a beautifully painted wooden structure. Like a small cabinet with two doors with a keyhole in the middle of the joint between the two doors.

Keys, alone, keys on a ring, keys in bundles. Keys to bicycle storage and bicycles, to attic and basement lockers, to cars that have long since stopped running and been compacted into recycling blocks. Keys to the diary’s small little heart-shaped padlock. To the padlocks that were on the chains that locked the gate to the allotment, to the special padlocks with which you booked appointments in the laundry room. Keys to that padlock that once in a lost time of love was attached to a bridge railing in the far distant past. Keys, it seems, once removed from their locks of any sort never meet again. Keys, saved, though they will never unlock anything again. And mostly they also have still functional keys thrown in for good measure. Because you put keys where keys already are, that’s how it is done.

Why do we do that? What is it about keys that makes them so hard to throw out? Is it that completely elusive and incomprehensible notion that a particular door that we remember, both in retrospect and in an indomitable forward desire, will one day turn out to be the door of our happiness? The doors of the future are usually hung in yesterday’s frames! Do we save it as a sign that we have not given up hope of reaching our “Shangri-La”; that as long as there is life, there is hope? But if that door were suddenly and unexpectedly to meet us just as we have struggled through yet another narrow and laborious passage, what frenzy of activity would not take place? Every key out of the jar or box or key cabinet would be examined, put into the keyhole, found to be unfit, and thrown back into the box with more force of frustration than the force with which it was found. Only one key fits! Why don’t I know which one it is? Because I saved what has already been forfeited and used up and no longer fits anywhere. But, dear God, what space these impotent keys take!

Not infrequently these key boxes and hiding places resemble our spiritual lives. I refer to our “theological keys. We gather a whole drawer full of sayings and phrases and theological jargon” during our lives. Most of them are never truly scrutinized as to their usefulness. They just are and can form a formidable defense against new knowledge. Where we know we were taught “only one thing is necessary”, we have hundreds and again thousands of useless keys to nothing. And when God comes to us in the midnight hour to give us the one thing the heart needs, and gives us the key to the door we have shut ourselves behind, we first try all our own old keys. Too stubborn, too proud of our key collection to have faith in His key. It is because we have not saved the one key that unlocks the secret room that God must give it to us again. It’s there in our key box, but we’ve saved too much of what should have been melted down and turned into new keys.

(A hint, His key is coded: surrender.)

God’s word puts the question in a different way: “How shall we escape (standing outside the door of the kingdom of heaven) if we do not take advantage of such a great salvation?”
Jesus sure said, didn’t He, “I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven.” And the day you entrusted yourself to Him he gave you that key. “I have given them eternal life.”
But maybe at that time you said “thank you, put them in that box where the others are.” So the keys accumulate. But when the kingdom of God comes you will not find the right one. It disappeared in the multitude of things that do not belong to the kingdom of heaven. And if and when they are handed to you again, (God is good that way) you must try all the others first, all the ones that no locks fit. And the worst part is that deep down you know about it! But still, just in case.. It is called “leaving all your options open”. Not much faith in God in that.

There is a great cleaning frenzy every Christmas time. It is part of the other, modified Christmas story, the one that thinks it pleases the baby Jesus by offering him a clean house but does not realize that He is only looking for clean-hearted householders, not their turbo-cleaned houses.

Do you have a moment to spare to clean out your key box this year? No? not this year either?
The kingdom of heaven is near! Will you have the time to find the key when He comes?

Teddy Donobauer Doncaster 7 December 2022

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