The lock on the door to this room where I write has been problematic for a long time. When I stick the key into the lock, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't.
On good days, it works smoothly. On bad days, I have to wrestle with the key, turning it and jiggling it until it turns and then it is very difficult to remove. But it always works, give or take a few extra seconds. I do not mind. It gets the job done.
Augustine told me recently that he wanted to make extra copies of the key and that Alphonse would be coming by to check the lock and the key. He was here a little while ago. He could not open the door.
But, he finally did, with no small amount of difficulty. He told me that something was wrong with the lock. I told him I knew that. Then he said he would send Alex up here to put a new lock on the door and that Alex would then make extra keys and give several to me.
Then Alphonse started talking about the lock and what might be the matter with it. Some words I knew. Most words I never ever heard of. Well, let me qualify that. I had heard of most of the words but what they mean in the lock and key context is beyond me.
Two words baffled me. A tang? A cam? And the rest -- a dead bolt, inner and outer panels, pins, a spring -- they were somewhat familiar to me in that at least I had heard them before. Interesting. But way beyond me, as to how they fit together and work so as to secure a no-entry or easy-entry door.
You do not know, I realize, Alex, Alphonse and Augustine. They are great men, very handy with tools and machines and getting big and little jobs done. They have been a wonderful help to me. Like I said, I would have continued to spend years rattling that key in the door until it turned correctly and the door opened.
I think it drove Alphonse crazy this morning when he could not get the key to function. I would have told him that all it takes is a sense of, a "feel," for the right way to twist and pull. But it was better that I kept silent.
I was writing something about God when Alphonse came in. Putting words together on this computer, big words and little words, a twist here and a jangle there, all in the hope of writing something nice about a being I have never met and whose existence is behind the door that leads to the next life.
I have no key to that.
I admire Augustine, Alphonse and Alex. I think they like my writing. They have told me as much. But something tells me that they are onto something that I tend to ignore. There are all sorts of doors and keys, locks and cams and tangs in this life. We are very adept at making them, and keeping things secure. We make sure that some come in and others stay out.
But Augustine, Alphonse and Alex know how to get in and out of all kinds of places. I believe Paradise has a lockless and pearly gate. And, if hell has a lock, Augustine, Alphonse and Alex will find a way to open it. I think that is what angels are about. And I think that is what God is about, training us to do what we can to open doors, turn keys, turn hearts.
I hope I do that with my words. I know three men who do that with a smile, a kind word, and maybe a jiggle.
Father James Stephen (Jeff) Behrens, O.C.S.O., serves at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit, 2625 Ga. Highway 212 S.W., Conyers. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.