Cairo was my home for seven years. I probably lived most of that time experiencing, but only partially comprehending, what a Gateway really is. Isn’t that always the way of things though? You live it first, and then afterwards the sense gradually begins to get made.
There is a medieval gate in the wall of the Old City, one of three remaining ones, called Bab Zuweila. In our last few months there the gate was renovated. It had stood immovable and open for five hundred years, and when renovated the giant wooden gates turned on their hinges for the first time in half a millennium. It was ceremoniously closed and then opened again.
In gateway places there can be a lot of waiting. Sometimes they seem to lock down, for days or weeks, and you can really feel it. Then suddenly, inexplicably, they swing open and a lot of stuff happens, and you have to be ready to take advantage of it. Sometimes it felt as though, when the gates were closed, prayers would go into a queue and nothing would shift. Then when it opened they would all go through and get responses in quick succession.
When Martin first wrote about the seven city types, it really helped us to understand where we were and where we were not; to know what to expect and what not to expect; to line up our prayers and efforts behind the potentials rather than irrelevancies.
Gateways are often contested, because whoever, or whatever, is seated in them, controls the flow in and out, and can exact toll or tribute from those who arrive or depart, and decree the conditions that apply. A seat in a gateway is buffeted and challenged, but remains place of far-reaching influence, all without having to go anywhere. To be a gatekeeper therefore involves a lot of just maintaining, even enduring a position for the sake of a far greater good.
I often noticed in Cairo, that although the pattern of life was not ‘busy’, or stressed in an activity sense, the inner stresses and soul-level challenges were sometimes relentless. Keeping seated in my own gates, and keeping them in good working order became a regular part of life. But the fascinating thing was the number of times my own ‘inner work’ was directly mirrored in the city, or at least in the environment around me. That kind of influence was the good news and the bad news. The good news was that the city’s issues were at hand – in my own inner house where I had authority. The bad news was that the issues were in my own inner house where I had to take authority.
A couple of years back I was ‘urged’ by the Holy Spirit to attend a Christian conference. (In the natural I am probably more likely to feel ‘urgings’ to run a marathon than to attend a conference, so this had to be the Holy Spirit.) The speaker was Ian Clayton, and some of you may have heard him. From my perspective he brings a very fresh, invigorating, challenging new perspective on the dynamics of spiritual things. By his own admission, with every answer he leaves ten more questions, and a fair amount went onto the shelf for some future time. One compelling thing I came away from that weekend with was a sort of ‘map’ of my own house. In the months that followed I used it to help me visualize and move around the inner world of my own spirit and soul, to discover what was there. It’s not necessary or possible to attribute a map or a visualization with the status of immutable reality, any more than any map is itself reality, it just needs to be a useful and reliable guide to help you find your way around for a purpose. What fascinated me, however, was that it was full of gateways.
The map was given as a tool for prayer and transformation, perhaps in the same way that the physical tabernacle structure, or a parable, was given as a picture, a visual experience to facilitate our engaging with a heavenly reality; something that would be not an absolute but a useful tool and guide. The proof of the pudding is always in whether or not it is transformational, so I began to try to visualize and attend to the various gateways in my own inner world to see what effect it would have.
Like all gateways, if we find an authority sitting in them that is not our own, or if we find them closed, there will be stuff that does not get through, or that gets hijacked on the way. Conversely, if stuff that should be getting through is not, then maybe we need to check what’s going on in some gateway or other.
Without a doubt the central revelation for me was of that of a central Holy of Holies; a place characterized by belovedness, intimacy and one-ness; a place where the curtain has been torn and the presence of God unveiled – and most importantly, not ‘out there’, but ‘in here’. Gates may be closed or usurped, but that spirit-core is always there. That meant that it was what was happening between this core and the perimeter that I needed to look into, not to look ‘out there’ somewhere for a dynamic of the presence of God I felt I was missing.
Like gateways of a city if you have the privilege of being ‘posted’ there, these inner gateways are contested, especially if you start reclaiming them. For me, the gateway lessons of Cairo are now beginning to resonate with the quest for these deeper, more basic, more personal gateways. But I’m convinced it is the same journey, and that what we do ‘in here’ is far reaching; not self-indulgent, but destined to transform the world.[Ian Clayton has a website, and many of his resources are available there.]