The red door was the door of his remembering and her
forgetting. Seven simple steps up to reach it that he knew intimately. Every
crack and crevice was as familiar to him as the back of his hand. He’d seen
them often enough in the 18 years he wandered up the steps, always looking down.
One never entered this sanctuary any other way. It just wasn’t done. Not until she came along.
Perhaps it was because of the lapse in her religious instruction. The years between when her parents left that church when she was 5 to when she returned on her own as a young adult might have been the important difference.
He never left the faith, never saw a reason to. So he didn’t understand when she balked at going to his church when they got married. He didn’t see anything wrong with the rites and rituals, didn’t think anything was broken and in need of fixing.
He didn’t see how harmful it was to see only men up front, only men leading the service. Even boys were allowed up there, but never women. A boy of eight could stand closer to the altar than she could. There was more than just the altar rail standing between her and the central focus of his faith. Over 2000 years of tradition, of “we’ve always done it this way” stood between her and God too.
He’d never been on the outside, so he didn’t know. He didn’t know how harmful it was to exclude half the population, because he’d never been on the other side.
Perhaps if she hadn’t spent those years away she never would have noticed. Perhaps, like a lobster in a pot, she wouldn’t have noticed she was being slowly killed, her spirit squashed into a state of compliance and submission.
But she had left and she knew better. She knew that the truth wasn’t up there at the altar. Heck it wasn’t even in the pews.
So his holy place, up the stairs and through the red door – painted red to indicate the Holy Spirit, wasn’t home for her.
She tried to get him to see the error of his church, how Jesus never intended service to be a ritual but a real thing. 2000 years of wrong is still wrong, no matter what they said.So she didn’t go anymore.
She went, at first, to please him, to go along. When she was in the middle of the Mass she’d feel an odd homesickness, the same ache she had when she came back to her family home after her parents died. It just wasn’t the same. It couldn’t be.
When she was sitting in those familiar wooden pews she forgot who she was, forgot about all the lies being told about her and about God, forgot that original sin came about because Adam didn’t stop his wife from breaking a rule she’d never been told.
Wasn’t that always the way? A secondhand story, a game of telephone where the stakes were so high they included eternal banishment and pain and work. If only he’d stood up to that serpent and defended her as a husband should, instead of mutely watching to see if she’d fall for the bait. Perhaps she was his canary in the coal mine, his measure of danger. Perhaps he didn’t believe God was that serious about the penalty, but wasn’t willing to risk it himself.
It was too dangerous to forget this. Forgetting that betrayal made her forget herself, made her betray her own sovereignty. So she stayed away.
And him? He kept going, week after week, not even minding that she didn’t go. He prayed for her to change, of course, to wake up, to see the error of her ways. He knew that one day she’d have to submit to God‘s will and stop being so obstinate and self-centered.
(Written before October 2018)