Please Come Back

by Rose Mary Dougherty

A wooden heart hangs on my office door; one side says, “Welcome,” the other, “Please come back.” Sometimes I forget to turn the sign and to leave the door open after my appointment has gone. Other times I choose to close the door and leave the sign turned, because I’m not in a welcoming mood or I need space for myself. Eventually someone knocks and says, “Are you still busy?”

In many ways, that wooden heart has become a symbol for my own heart. I suspect that years ago, when life’s circumstances appeared too threatening, I shut some doors of different parts of my heart, almost without knowing it. My psyche hung the sign, “Please come back.” Sometimes, when I was feeling most alone in one of these rooms, especially in prayer, God would emerge from a corner and sit with me. Eventually, God would say, “Can I open the door?” I’d say a shaky, “Yes,” and the door would open slowly. I would sense a hospitality for whatever might come in. I could be with God for a while, looking at everything, even my fear. I was not overwhelmed. I knew I was safe and loved. Then, reflexively, I would close the door again. There are other doors that I consciously chose to close. I wanted protection against rejection, intimacy, feelings that I’d rather not have, and maybe even protection against God. I posted a sign that said, “Please come back when I am ready to deal with you” and added, “God, this means you, too.”

Life and friends have respected the signs; even God has respected them, it seems. But lately I hear God knocking on some of these doors and saying, “Rose Mary, are you still busy?” I hear the knocking in times of silence, in the tenderness of friends, in the drawing to compassion, in the welling up of gratitude. It reminds me that maybe it is time for me to open these doors. There is no reason for them to remain closed forever. I want to say, “God come in,” but I’m not sure I’m ready for that. Even if I were, I doubt that I could open them easily. Regardless of how they got closed, they are stuck. Their hinges have become rusty.

But I’m also tired of living behind closed doors, of going though the motions of opening and closing them, of posting signs of welcome then quickly changing them. When I close out part of life, even that which I fear, I close out freedom and love.
Sometimes lately I just sit quietly in my desire to have them open. At other times I pray with deep passion, “Oh God, invade my heart! With chisel and hammer remove its many doors! Leave only a welcome sign for all to see!”

I ask this knowing God will not invade. Instead, God will change the signs from “Come back later” to “Welcome,” gently opening each door. Then God will wait with me to welcome freedom and love. Perhaps, in time, when my trust is solid enough, God will remove all the doors.

This blog is taken from Rose Mary Dougherty’s collected newsletter articles, Trusting Love: An Undefended Heart, available for purchase on the Shalem web store.

February 02, 2020 by Rose Mary Dougherty
Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments


Our mission is to nurture contemplative living and leadership.


In 2025, Shalem will be a dynamic and inclusive community, empowered by the Spirit, where seekers engage in transformation of themselves, their communities, and the world through spiritual growth, deep connection, and courageous action.