One morning I looked out the front window and saw the barn door was open. A horse was standing by the corn crib, not 10 feet from the road. It wasn’t my horse but still I had that sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach.

We had rented out a stall to an Amish neighbor to board his horses for a month while he was doing some logging nearby. He paid the rent with several loads of firewood. And he spread some of that high-octane Percheron exhaust on the garden, so it was a good deal all around.

The neighbor arrived within a few minutes to tend to the wayward horse so all ended well. But that sinking feeling brought back memories of all those times in my youth when somebody left a door or a gate unlocked. The cows would escape, usually onto the road, and almost always at the most inconvenient time. Chasing cows at three o’clock in the morning is not fun, especially when the school bus is due to arrive at 7 a.m.

We came home recently after being gone all day to discover the patio doors off the dining room were wide-open. The wooden doors warp in the winter and we had forgotten to turn the bolt lock. Again there was that sinking feeling as I realized that we had put ourselves at risk. It frightens us when we discover we have left a door open.

And yet an open door can sometimes be our salvation. Psychiatrist and spiritual writer Thomas Moore says in psychotherapy with his clients he has heard many “dreams of doors left ajar and windows cracked open. The dreamer was deathly afraid of who or what might come in because of this negligence, and of course as a therapist I suspected that whoever it was, was probably someone useful or necessary.”

Moore quotes one of Emily Dickenson’s poems.

The Soul should always stand ajar

That if Heaven inquire

He will not be obliged to wait.

And then Moore adds, “Life needs a point of entry, a crack in our defenses … The door ajar is yet another image for … caring for the soul. It is not a project, as is the job of personal growth or self-improvement. It is not so much something we do as it is something done to us. Our role is to stand out of the way or allow a point of entry.”

It’s not easy to stand out of the way or allow a point of entry when we have experienced some great hurt in our lives. Very often after a tragedy or a trauma we are inclined to say, “I’m never going to let myself be hurt like that again.” We lock out everyone and everything that might possibly hurt us.

We have all known people who in such circumstances have stopped seeing friends or refused any kind of social invitation. Most of us have done that at one time or another. We think if we lock all the doors we can keep ourselves perfectly safe.

But there is no such thing as “perfectly safe” as Leonard Cohen would sing.

Ring the bells that still can ring

Forget your perfect offering

There is a crack, a crack in everything

That’s how the light gets in.

John Sumwalt is a retired pastor, the son of dairy farmers and the author of “Shining Moments: Visions of the Holy in Ordinary Lives. Visit to contact him.