This summer I moved from California to Texas, and before I left, I gave back most my keys to the people who needed them and had right to them: the house key to the remaining inhabitants; a garage key for the garage door; a garage door opener; a school key to the school office, a church key. So when I drove away into the light of an early June morning, I had only two needful keys on the ring: my car key and the key to my mom’s house, from which I was driving yet further away.
That light key ring, as I drove halfway across this wide country, seemed to mirror my life: minimal, portable, unanchored, pruned. I was less connected; there were literally fewer doors that would open to me. With my two keys, I could stay on the road, or I could turn around and go back home.
But I’ve gotten some new keys since: my new apartment door key, the weightier key to the gate for the apartment building, the fancy key to the door at work, the smaller key for internal doors at work, the very small mailbox key; and a remote control for the parking garage.
When I used to backpack in the mountains in high school, the leader of one trip commented how nice it was to leave our keys behind for a week or ten days. He said, “We wouldn’t have keys if it wasn’t for sin; keys are a result of the fall.” Keys a result of the fall? What a strange idea! But the more I thought about it, the more I figured it was true, since we wouldn’t need to lock people out, or lock people in, or lock things up, were it not for sin. We would all have free access everywhere, and not intrude upon or take away what wasn’t ours, nor fear others doing it to us.
Yet this result of the fall also points to blessings amid the brokenness, when looked at the right way. Even in our fallen world, we are still connected to communities. We have families. We dwell in homes. We have friendships. We have good work to do. And keys are a concrete symbol of all these blessings; maybe even, somehow, effecting what they symbolize.
So, for instance, one of my friends has a key to the gate of my apartment, because she’s trusted and welcome to come in freely. My next door neighbors have a key to my door, so when I’m gone they can water, or bring in the mail, or borrow a pizza cutter. I have a key to the school where I’ll be employed, because I will have work to do there. The key to my car reminds me, whenever the engine turns over, of shopping for it with my dad eleven years ago, makes me think of him now that he is gone, and beyond the need of keys. I am thankful that this car still works, and that I have health and freedom to come and go in it. Turning the key in the lock of my home tells me it’s a place of security, and I can rest there.
So although keys may exist because of a certain brokenness of our world—one which Adam and Eve wouldn’t have contended with before the fall—they also symbolize the blessings of community, friends, work, health, and home.
And though I regularly lose them, I’m really thankful for my keys!