Ever heard or even repeated that hackneyed phrase, "Whenever God closes a door, he opens a window"? While I haven't always found that window when the door closed in the past, some part of me has clung to that belief over the years. In my recent experience, I have discovered that it just isn't true: He doesn't merely open a window, He actually opens a universe.
I'm pretty sure this will rile a few folks out there, and if you find yourself to be one of the riled, maybe you're not the one to be reading this article. Then again, it could be that the riled are the ones most in need of this frame of reference into the twists and turns of life. In order to find the power in this principle, you need to keep your mind open. Perhaps you have heard this tired cliché: "Minds are like parachutes -- both function best when open." If you can keep your mind open just a bit, you may discover an enormous source of solace and guidance in this simple yet powerfully revamped principle.
Whenever God Closes a Door, He Opens a Universe
Allow me to share a bit of my personal journey with you as a way of shedding some light on the power of these universal principles.
In the past couple of years, I have seen my consulting practice dry up virtually overnight several times and on three separate occasions last year alone. The year 2011 was a doozy: My bank account twice shrank to less than my monthly overhead, and it wasn't clear where the money would come from to pay the mortgage. In the last half of the year alone, my wife fell in love with someone else (while still loving me), my client work again disappeared, and I wound up selling my house while losing money in the process.
However, as much as "why me?" arose in my consciousness many times over, I was also comforted by the promise of a window opening somewhere and trusting that "this too shall pass." In many ways, I am fortunate to have endured what many would consider some challenging situations growing up. As I have shared in earlier articles, my family went bankrupt a couple of times by the time I was 16, my father died at an early age and I wound up living in my car while trying to stay in school with less than six dollars to my name. Oh, and I had 14 surgeries by the time I was 14, went through two windshields in head-on collisions and somehow survived a third accident when the car I was living in was broadsided by a drunk and rolled over 11 times before coming to a stop.
It would be far from truthful to say that I embraced these various issues with a cheery, "ain't life great" attitude. However, despite the adversity, some part of me kept on keeping on, looking for a way through, and finding something to do to step up one more time than I was knocked down. Somewhere in all of these experiences, the cliché about doors closing and windows opening kept resonating.
Some of my critics would call me lucky, some would call me delusional, and some, well... just dismiss the whole thing. I would have to agree with the lucky part, or perhaps better stated, that I was blessed in midst of these challenges. You may have to strain a bit to find the blessings, but then you didn't go through these circumstances with me. However, you have gone through your own challenges, and if you can keep that parachute open, you just might find your own version of luck and blessing in the apparent adversity.
As my client work dried up and blew away these many times, I found a certain degree of comfort in the fact that I had survived all those early years of difficulty. The fact that I did just fine even while living in my car has been a great point of reference along the way, following this kind of reasoning: if I could make through being homeless with six dollars to my name, how bad could this time around really be?
How Do You Find the Blessing in the Apparent Curse?
First up: You need to learn that life is really more like a trust walk than anything else. About the only guarantee you can count on is that things are going to change and not necessarily in ways that you will like. You need to trust that the other car is going to stay on its side of the road, even though you may, like me, have evidence that it may not. You need to trust that the other guy is going to stop at the light, even though you may, like me, have evidence that it may not. You need to trust that no matter how bad it gets, there's always something else you can do to make things better. You need to trust that even if it's only the slightest bit of improvement, slight improvement is better than no improvement at all.
The curious thing about this kind of trust is that your ability to trust actually becomes a source of freedom and creativity. If instead of trusting, you lapse into discouragement, self-pity or hopelessness, then some part of you will give up before it even gets up. It's pretty hard to find a way forward if you have already given up. However, by keeping your eye on what's possible, by keeping your spirit up, by trusting that whatever has befallen you is actually going to turn out OK, you then keep yourself open to possibilities and improvements that you would otherwise miss. Staying open is the key to discovering your next step -- not necessarily a perfect step, just one that is what I like to call, "directionally correct."
This past summer, when my client work dried up for the third time in a year, some part of me reasoned that there must be a reason. It occurred to me that if my client work keeps going away, then it must be time to shift my focus, to change what I do for a living. While I had not yet arrived at the discovery of God opening a universe and not merely a window, I did have the combination of trust and prior experience to keep looking for that opening window.
Literally two weeks after my last round of dried-up client work, the window opened, and I wound up with the opportunity to take on the role of Editorial Director at The Huffington Post. Just a few days after getting to NYC to start the new assignment, my wife let me know about her new love. As one part of me cratered inside, another reminded me that this was yet another opportunity to take the next step in my trust walk. Six weeks later, the house we had been trying to sell for three years wound up in escrow. And eight weeks after that, I wound up at a grace-filled retreat where I reconnected with a woman I first fell in love with 32 years ago. Despite having not done anything with that shared loving all these many years, we both discovered that our connection was alive, vibrant and deeper than we ever could have imagined.
If you are tracking with me on this, a whole lot of things had to be removed in order to make way for the next level of opening. As much as it may have appeared to me that God was closing a door, He was really opening a whole new universe.
Next week, we'll dive into this even more deeply, focusing on how you can find that opening window, if not that opening universe.
What windows have already opened in your life? How about whole new universes? How did you notice? What steps did you take? What are the next steps on your trust walk?
I'd love to hear from you. Please do leave a comment here or drop me an email at Russell (at) russellbishop.com.
For more by Russell Bishop, click here.
For more about mindfulness, click here.
If you want more information on how you can apply this kind of reframing to your life and to your job, and about a few simple steps that may wind up transforming your life, please download a free chapter from my new book, "Workarounds That Work." You'll be glad you did.
Russell Bishop is an educational psychologist, author, executive coach and management consultant based in Santa Barbara, Calif. You can learn more about my work by visiting my website at www.RussellBishop.com. You can contact me by e-mail at Russell (at) russellbishop.com.