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I Stand By The Door
by Sam Shoemaker

I stand by the door. I neither go too far in, nor stay too far out. This door is the most important door in the world. It’s the door through which men walk when they find God. There’s no use my going way inside and staying there when so many are still outside. And they, just as I, crave to know where the door is. And all that so many ever find is only a wall where that door ought to be. They creep along the wall like blind men with oustretched groping hands feeling for a door, knowing that there must be a door, yet they never find it.

So I stand by the door.

The most tremendous thing in the world is for men to find that door, the door to God. The most important thing any man can do is to take hold of one of those hands, and put it on that latch, the latch that only clicks and opens to that man’s own touch. Many die outside that door as starving beggars die on cold nights in cruel cities in the dead of winter, die for want of what is within their grasp. They live on the other side of that door. They live because they have not found it. Nothing else matters compared to helping them find it, and open it, and walk in and find God.

So I stand by the door.

Go in great saints, go all the way in. Go way down into the cavernous cellars and way up into the spacious attics in its vast roomy house, this house where God is. Go into the deepest of hidden casements of withdrawals, silence and sainthood. Some must inhabit those inner rooms and know the depths and heights of God, and call outside to the rest of us how wonderful it is in there. Sometimes I take a deeper look in. Sometimes I venture in a little further. But my place seems to be closer to the opening.

So I stand by the door.

There’s another reason why I stand there. Some people get part way in and become afraid lest God and the zeal of His house devour them. For God is so very great and asks all of us. And these people feel a cosmic claustrophobia, and they want to get out. “Let me out!” they cry. And the people way inside only terrify them even more. Somebody must be by the door to tell them that they’re spoiled. For the old life they have seen too much. Once you taste God, nothing but God will do ever again. Somebody must be watching for the frightened who seek to sneak out just where they came in, and tell them how much better it is inside.

The people too far in don’t see how near these people are to leaving, preoccupied with the wonder of it all. Somebody must watch for those who have entered the door but would like to run away.

So, for them too, I stand by the door.

I admire the people who go way in, but I wish they wouldn’t forget how it was, before they got in. Then they would be able to help the people who have not yet even found that door, or the people who want to run away again from God. You can go in too deeply, you can stay in too long, and forget the people outside the door. As for me, I’ll take my old accustomed place, near enough to God to hear Him, and know that He is there, but not so far from men as not to hear them and remember they are there too. Where? Outside the door .. Thousands of them. Millions of them. But more important for me, one of them, two of them, ten of them, whose hands I am intended to put on the latch. So I stand by the door and wait for those who seek it. I’d rather be a doorkeeper.

So I stand by the door.

(This is the same Sam Shoemaker who was the minister who helped Bill W. and Dr. Bob meet. Those three are the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous.)