“So, here we stand … with opportunities circling all around us—opportunities that could impact the world in an eternal way. God doesn’t open doors for us to simply peer through them; He opens them so we will pass through them with faith that He will empower us to do His kingdom work.
Standing before an open door never resulted in a single changed life. Walking through an open door has changed the lives of millions. Are you willing to walk through it?”
—Charles F. Stanley, Pathways to His Presence
Reading Dr. Stanley’s comments about doors and opportunity took me way back—to the early ’80s and Barrington, Rhode Island. My husband and I found ourselves standing outside a stranger’s door in that unfamiliar town, oblivious to the plans God had for this pair of newcomers to Christ. We thought, What are we doing here? We’ve got a sitter and could still make an 8 p.m. movie—and almost turned around to leave.
Then the door opened.
We had no idea that the couple who greeted us—Fred and Penny Richardson—were about to become two of the most important people in our life. The mutual friend who’d led me to faith set up this “blind date,” figuring an avid Bible teacher like Fred could sort through our many questions and misconceptions. Studying Scripture, however, had never been part of our repertoire. And to make matters worse, we were both shy around new people, so this was doubly daunting. But God (don’t you love that two-word biblical phrase?) knew us well and had—many years earlier—laid some unusual groundwork to connect us with the Richardsons: There was a giant brass locomotive bell sitting in their front hall.
Since boyhood, my husband had a fascination for trains large and small, including a beloved Märklin set that was the basement’s focal point in every house we owned. Fred had a similar lifelong passion, but with a different emphasis: full-size steam locomotives, of which that bell was a fond souvenir. As a teenager, he had “chased trains” throughout New England and later even operated an engine named for him—Number 7, the “F. H. Richardson.” As you might imagine, any feelings of awkwardness evaporated as the two men immediately began swapping stories and statistics.
Before the evening was over, we discovered more common ground—notably our shared wedding anniversary date and a love of fresh-baked cookies (which would appear weekly as they “trained us up” and on nearly every visit throughout the years). And so began the mentoring relationship that grounded us in God’s Word and gave Fred and Penny a unique place in our heart—as spiritual parents, life coaches, and dearly trusted friends.
Which doors have I allowed to stay closed, and what have I missed out on as a result? Worse, what have others missed out on because I turned away?
How different life would have been for us, for our kids, grandkids, and who knows how many others if we had turned around and left that night. I’m profoundly grateful we crossed Fred and Penny’s threshold, but at the same time, it makes me wonder: Which doors have I allowed to stay closed, and what have I missed out on as a result? Worse, what have others missed out on because I turned away?
It’s been years since the Richardsons both “graduated” (as they often referred to a believer’s physical death). But I still often wish I could pick up the phone to hear Fred’s wisdom—to be “talked down” in a crisis, soothed by his unwavering confidence in scriptural truth. Yes, I miss this couple, but I also appreciate their legacy of transmitting a strong love for God's Word and the understanding of how to apply it. I can now see that Fred’s patient teaching, drilling, and quizzing gradually infiltrated my memory and mindset, shaping me into someone excited to help shape those in my own circle of influence. When I hear one of his countless “Fredisms” come out of my mouth, I smile to realize I take after him, especially when I consider Fred’s unmistakable family resemblance to his Father—our Father.
Illustration by Adam Cruft