Don’t confuse a symbol with the reality behind it.
Which is to say, be careful when symbolizing reality.
The symbol is not reality. It just directs your eye to it; points at it.
It is to confuse the moon for the finger pointing at the moon.
My mother recently realized the hymn “I’m Climbing Jacob’s Ladder,” had somehow became silly and meaningless to her. This hymn from childhood no longer pointed anywhere. Certainly not to the deep reality in the Biblical story. She had confused the symbol for what was behind it; worshipping the symbol as “real” and in this way severing the symbol from its meaning. She had lost its connection to reality.
Another example of this confusion is that life is the treasure, not the money that represents it. Yet we find ourselves often more upset over the loss of the money than the treasure we gain in the exchange.
Christ—the cross—himself says, “Ye believe in the Father. Believe ye also in me.” He points to the father. A symbol is something you follow to the destination…it is not the destination. It transports you there. “I go to my father’s house.”
You don’t worship the door to get where you are going. The door you see is just a concept, and if that’s all it is then it sits in direct opposition to faith—actually blocks your way. Rather it is the door you can’t see, the invisible door—the wardrobe, the rabbit hole, the tunnel in Shawshank Redemption, the ruby slippers, platform 9 and 3/4—that are first found by sheer accident, then later are walked through by faith alone to go home. This is the real door.
My mother realized something profound. In a sense, she was the door. She wasn’t climbing a ladder to some other something. She was the ladder. Because Christ is the ladder. He, and she with him, the son of Man, the Jacob’s ladder on whom the angels ascend and descend. She, and He with her, the thing which brings heaven down and earth up. Connecting two places into one. She is the bridge. She is cross-shaped. Door-shaped. A short, two-legged, walking city of God with a Texas drawl. Life bursts from this compass. All lines converge on and diverge from this steeple. In fear and humility and amazement you turn this rock up and anoint it with oil, and sing with new joy of the meaning you’ve found.