The Staircase Called Becoming
Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve had a recurring dream, where I am in a large house full of rooms, long hallways, and stairways leading off in every direction. Some rooms are open, others closed, and a few are locked. The walls are white washboard, and my dream always ends with me standing at the foot of a winding set of stairs, with a small closed door at the top. I have never made it all the way up the stairs or through that door, but that is always my longing in this dream.
In adulthood, I have had an additional recurring house dream, in which I am in a grand brick mansion, also with many rooms and even some sprawling ballrooms. The same themes of curiosity and exploration exist in this dream as in the other, but in this dream I am more preoccupied with how I will decorate these rooms. What furniture might I like to fill such a huge space? How will I make a home here? There is a creative, filling aspect to this house that is different from the stark hallways of the first house.
Over the years, I have come to understand these houses as metaphors for myself. I confess I have never read Teresa of Avila’s Interior Castles, but the title has often appealed to me: this House (for I think they are somehow one and the same) represents my inner world and journey of becoming myself. It is adventurous, grand, and beautiful. It is familiar but also mysterious, incomplete yet full of potential, and often lonely. Themes of longing, exploration, and discovery tie my story together.
The oldest wing in my house is called Childhood, where there are rooms with names like Military Life, Pastor’s Kid, and Body Image. There is a hallway called Outsider, a closet called Loneliness, and a secret passageway called Belonging – but that one's locked. There are a series of footpaths across the grounds of the estate, and they are called Connection. Some of them are well-worn and traveled often, while others have become overgrown with weeds and stinging nettle.
Another wing is called Education, with a widening hallway called Intellect that leads to rooms named with each of the places I’ve studied: Chicago, Glasgow, Vancouver, Edmonton. The Glasgow room is one of my favourites, with dark wood paneling, floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, and a crackling fire. The Alberta wing is the biggest wing in my house, and it holds some of my most tender rooms: Wilderness, Marriage, Motherhood, Vocation, Longing. The Alberta wing leads to a great room called Flourishing, and it is lined with many doors – so many that I can’t see the back of the room. There are many doors I’ve never opened yet: some which sparkle with invitation, others which lurk in the shadows, and a few which seem to fade in and out. Some of the doors I’ve opened so far are called Chaplaincy, Creativity, Self-Compassion. Even Grief has a place here - for now. It is a room that moves.
One of the doors that fades in and out is called Belonging. It leads to the secret passageway that connects to other parts of the house. The Belonging passageway unfolds like a vine, branching in every direction, unfurling tender green shoots to the edge of other rooms in the house, but not all of the doors are open. Some are simply closed, and a few are locked from the other side. I often spend time in here, wandering the dark steps of this secret passageway and checking doors to see if they will let me in.
Lastly, along the edge of the Flourishing wing, there is an opening. It leads onto a winding set of stairs, with a small closed door at the top. What lies behind that door is a mystery to me, but I’m pretty sure the staircase is called Becoming.
If you were to use the metaphor of a house for your own life, what would it look like? What sort of wings and rooms would there be, and how would the hallways, footpaths, and secret passageways connect between them? Are there parts of the house that are still locked? Are there areas under renovation, or in need of it? Perhaps there are rooms that feel ready to crumble, or new wings still under construction?
Where does God meet you in your house – as a guest, a builder, a landlord, a stranger at the door?
What emotions arise as you wander the rooms of your house?
What would it look like to welcome God into those feelings and those spaces?
God who bids me welcome, I welcome you.
God who holds all keys, unlock the door to my Self.
God who knows sorrow, sit with me in my sorrow.
God who embodies hope, let it arise in me.
God who welcomes strangers,
I welcome you,
I welcome myself to the mystery of my own becoming.