Recently, I was in talks to purchase a business. In my mind, it was a done deal. And it was going to be the solution to our financial problems. My wife, who had been pushing for it all along, came suddenly to me one day and asked if I had taken this decision to God. I brushed this aside at first, but then realized that my wife was right and that she was acting as a ‘Threshold Guardian’.
What is a threshold guardian?
In the first Harry Potter book/movie there is a giant three-headed dog (named Fluffy) that is guarding the entrance to a series of challenges that ultimately lead to the Sorcerer’s Stone (Philosopher’s Stone in the U.K.). Harry, Ron, and Hermione of course figure out how to put the beast to sleep and then the real obstacle course begins.
This creature (directly lifted from Greek mythology) is what is often referred to as a threshold guardian. It doesn’t have to be a three-headed dog. In fact, it can be anything. Most often it is another person. Movies often portray this recurring type of character at a point in the story where the main character is about to cross a figurative or literal threshold (doorway) to face a great challenge. The threshold guardian, in a sense, questions the hero, saying “Are you sure you want to do this? Are you really qualified? Is this the best solution?”
In the wizard of Oz, they arrive at the Wizard’s palace and the Doorman–a threshold guardian–tries to turn them away. In the movie, The Labyrinth, Jennifer Connelly’s character is prevented from passing through a door until she can answer a riddle from two creatures (one of which always lies and the other always tells the truth). In the movie, Doctor Strange, Benedict Cumberbatch’s character is rejected by the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) for being disrespectful and finds himself literally sitting outside of the doorway begging to be let back inside.
In my own life, starting with my parents, I have had people who have stopped me and questioned me before I did something that could be risky or life altering. Sometimes we resent these people because we, of course, think we know what is best for ourselves. And whether we do or do not, these threshold guardians cause us to stop and think for a moment. Are we really ready to face this obstacle? Do we understand what we are getting ourselves into? And if so, then full steam ahead. But other times, we may be grateful that they stopped us before we made a terrible mistake.
So my wife encouraged me to take my business opportunity before the Lord in prayer–something I should have already done. But it wasn’t until I thought of her as a threshold guardian that I realized the importance of this decision. This business opportunity, that I was hastily jumping into, could be life changing–good or bad–for us and our family.
This was a big moment. I got on my knees and really prayed. And the answers came, but they seemed weird.
I was told to immediately contact a financial advisor who I was already planning on meeting with the next day. I called him and told him a little bit about our situation, and his immediate advice was to not move forward with the purchase of the business. But sensing my surprise, he said we could look at the details more when we met the next day.
I got in my car and started driving. Another person came to mind, the bishop of my church, I felt strongly like I should contact him. “Contact him about what?” I thought. I wasn’t particularly close to this bishop and we had kind of gotten off on the wrong foot when we first met. But the feeling was so strong, that I decided to send him a text.
“I feel like I should contact you. Not sure why. But this is me contacting you.”
He responded immediately.
“Can you meet me at my office this evening at 7:00.”
When we met, I still wasn’t sure what we were meeting for, but the conversation quickly turned to the business deal I was working on. I was surprised when his words echoed almost word for word the warnings that my financial advisor friend gave me over the phone.
That was when I knew what deep down I hadn’t wanted to admit for weeks. That we shouldn’t go through with purchasing the business. I marveled that God had given me, not one, but two witnesses to steer me away from the threshold I was about to cross.
What threshold guardian experiences have you had? Do you have a favorite threshold guardian scene from a movie?