• Barb Lownsbury

God-in-a-Box

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I used to try to fit my Christianity into a box.  Ever been there?  I had a checklist of qualities that needed to be in place in order to feel good about my faith.  Did I sit down, read my bible and pray every day?  Check.  Did I dress in a conservative, clean cut way?  Check.  Did I work hard and never make a fuss?  Check.  And I noticed the people sitting around me in church looked an awful lot like I did.

It’s not that any of those things are bad per say, especially the part about spending time with God!  It’s that I started to realize I was strangling out my passion for my Creator with a rule-based faith that didn’t allow for His creativity and power to truly shine in my life.  Sadly, I also realized I tried to fit others into that very same box.  I wanted to cookie cutter the people in my life, to have them act a certain way, to come from a certain socioeconomic class, and to look a certain way. And in doing so, I was losing out on a lot of great life lessons and joy-filled relationships that were waiting for me outside of my cardboard box world.

God is infinitely bigger than any box we try to put Him into.  When we place God in a box, we only get to experience all that He is in a very limited way.  That’s why for many of us, faith has become a stuffy, confining space.  We’ve trapped our faith into something that doesn’t allow us to grow.  We stifle His Spirit.  We are afraid to listen for the bigger truths He may be trying to show us in His word and within us, within others.  But guess what?  God is great at breaking down boxes.  He’s actually a box smasher! 

Look at Jesus in John 4 on a trip through the region of Samaria.  He stops to rest by a well and strikes up a deep conversation with someone who was 1) a woman (taboo in his day) and 2) a Samaritan (a race his people traditionally hated).  He didn’t just contemplate breaking out of the box by talking with this woman; He completely smashed and obliterated that box by bringing her to a place of faith and healing.  And she turned around and impacted her whole town because of it. 

Or think about the time God broke through the religious status quo.  He spoke to the Apostle Peter in Acts 11 through a vision.  In this vision, He gives Peter a new way to look at his faith, and it rocks Peter’s world!  He comes to understand that for the first time, Jesus came to save not only the Jews, but the rest of us (the Gentiles) as well.  And Peter’s world would never be the same.  God lined up experiences and people at precisely the right time to draw Peter down a different path.  What if Peter hadn’t listened?  What if instead he thought he must be crazy or wrong?  I’m so glad he let God smash that box!

I think we all get lured away from walking hand-in-hand with a God who is so much bigger than we can understand, so much more capable to mold our lives than we are, because we are afraid of what we can’t control or understand.  I know I do.  I cling to my box because it offers a weird sort of comfort.  Even if it’s stifling, at least I know it. I’m like a toddler sitting in a warm, dirty diaper: it’s smelly and gross, but at least it’s mine.  We get that a kid needs to lose the diaper.  It’s harder to trust God to remove our own. 

As God has confronted me over the years with my tendency to put the world into boxes, it has stretched and refined me to such an amazing space.  Over time, He has shown me the incredible beauty, wonder, complexity and nuances of all that He is expressed through His rainbow of believers and expressed within me.  He’s taught me the power of not just accepting others who are different from myself, but to actually embrace them, walking in fellowship with one another and growing from that process (there are nearly 100 “one another” verses in the Bible—pretty important stuff!).  He’s taught me to do the same with myself, that His grace is strong enough to reach every area of my life, even the places I don’t see.  I can say with true joy, “You have freed me from my chains” (Psalm 116:16), and “Your goodness reaches far above the skies.  You have done wonderful things.  God, there is no one like you” (Psalm 71:19). 

When I catch myself allowing a box to be constructed in my life (or find a new one), I have learned to prayerfully fight and redirect my energy to embracing who I am and who God wants me to be – in all of its complexity!  God doesn’t want a plain vanilla life for me, not in my relationships with others, not in my relationship with Him, and not within myself.  He created every part of me, and none of it embarrasses Him.  Nothing is wasted or lost in His hands.  He can use it all for His glory.  He created me to be a dynamic, beautiful, wise, humble, bold, strong, funny, loving, gentle, kind, firm, and joyful woman.  My suburban soccer mom exterior is simply my outward disguise!  I may still have to battle that broken nature within, but with God by my side I can swing His sword of truth and keep that box from putting itself back together in my life–and so can you! 

So, don’t be afraid to let God break down those boxes in your life, whatever they may be.  As you do, you will begin to see the many facets of the Jesus we worship, expressed in a rainbow of colors all around us.  And your world will become more vibrant and rich because of it.

For Further Thought:  What entices you away from trusting God to reveal Himself more fully in your life?  This week, find a scripture that entices you toward faithful trust in Him and quote it to yourself whenever you feel pulled to build your own box.  One of my favorites is Philippians 4:4-6 which says:

“Celebrate God all day, every day.  I mean, revel in him!  Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you’re on their side, working with them and not against them.  Help them see that the Master is about to arrive.  He could show up at any minute!  Don’t fret or worry.  Instead of worrying, pray.  Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns.  Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down.  It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.” 

Here’s a link to get your started:  https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Php+4%3A4-9&version=MSG Happy hunting!

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