Friday, January 8, 2010

Living In A Box

A box is a handy lightweight container we use to put things in to move them from place to place, or perhaps to store them for a while. The idea of a box was a great one; then it infected our thinking, and now more of us seem to live out our entire lives in boxes of one form or another. No, I’m not just talking about those of us whose “stuff” exceeds our natural ability to find a place for it, and thus boxes enter our lives and seem to stick around. Nor am I talking about those less fortunate who seek out old appliance boxes to construct a shelter from the rain on the street. I am talking about the compartments we setup in our minds in which goes the life we come to know.

Men are famous for their ability to compartmentalize their lives. It is as if we are able to place all relevant connected things into a container and put it on a shelf in our mind someplace. While engaging in an activity … say sports of one kind or another, we are completely subsumed in the current actions taking place. When it is over, we can put away our thoughts and feelings, back into the box, back up on the shelf. Then it is time to take down the next one and live there for a while, say the “work” box, or the “boyfriend” box. This idea of segregating one set of activities from another allows men to see each other within different contexts. A man can view another person as a friend in one context, and as a sports adversary in another (without ruining the friendship).

Of course this only works if there are a set of general rules we can apply to the related activities. Sports are a good example, because the rules of the game (both official and unofficial) are widely known and accepted. But relationships too can be put into a box since the requirements are pretty well known and the behavior is also fairly predictable. The routines that develop in this kind of thinking appear to be the goal of living this way. It boils down to predictability and shared contextual experience.

Then there is God. Man seems to have an overwhelming need to fully understand what God is. If we could fully understand Him though, it would probably mean He was not God after all. This logical fallacy aside, we still seem to pursue trying to put God into one of our famous box style containers. We hurl out 2-5 adjectives to describe God and hope this is enough to cover it. It’s not. We use the example of Christ taking on humanity to somehow try to limit God to our context. But He cannot be limited. We generalize, summarize, and paraphrase – but all to no avail. It is when we believe we have succeeded in putting God into a box, that the most heinous lies about His character are developed and cherished in our minds.

For example, there are those who believe that the God of the Old Testament had no idea about the plan of salvation. There was no effort made to save man from his sins, only to punish him for them. They believe the God of the Old Testament to be a God of war, of anger, and of punishment. When placed in this context and left there, all the scripture that speaks to love is ignored in favor of all the scripture that outlines the mistakes of man, and the violence that ensues. This view of God is logically incorrect (evil things self destruct), and a more careful read of Old Testament scripture would prove it out. But first the context of the reader must be enlightened to see love at every turn, rather than to ignore it in favor of violence.

Another group of believers put God into a box of love. This would be more accurate if they did not also limit love to having no sense of justice, logic, or long term views. New Testament believers, who place God in the Love box, throw out the Old Testament as just allegorical stories to inspire morality. They believe that once you are saved, you are always saved. And they tend to believe that it does not matter what you do, cause God has forgiven you for it anyway. These people twist the concept of love, into a free-for-all for evil behavior. Love does not seek us to harm ourselves and others, only evil does. Love tries to save us from pain and evil, but this is overlooked as the entire concept is designed only to excuse sin, rather than escape sin.

Both groups would benefit from a quick look at simple truths such as the extinction of evil in the universe. Those that believe love will tolerate evil forever are wrong. Evil will be both punished and then exterminated. Those that believe God is only the God of anger, and killing; will have a hard time explaining why the supposed “author” of these things would get rid of them for all time throughout the universe. There will come a time when evil is no more, when all sentient beings will only continually choose to do good forever and ever. This experiment the universe has tolerated will be ended by the eternal choices of all of its participants.

When we put God into a box of any kind, we tend to limit what He can do. It is the nature of the box to “confine” its contents. But some things just do not fit well in boxes, love is one of them. Just when you think you know what love truly is, it grows again. Have you ever looked at someone or something and told yourself you could never feel anything for that item or person? Then some time later you find yourself with deeply held genuine feelings of affection for the very thing you used to be so casual about? It happens. Love can do this. You can find love in your teens and rediscover it in your thirties. You can endure the traumas of evil, heal from the wounds of self inflicted pain, and find love that endures is even stronger than you ever thought possible. Love can do this.

When you take love and your relationships out of the boxes you create for them, you allow them to grow in new dimensions you never thought possible. The very act of mentally freeing the objects of your affection from the containers you have tried to define them within is liberating and surprising. Do you know your spouse or significant other? How well? How long? Even if your answer is years, or decades, guess what – there is more for you to learn. Just because you think you know someone, does not mean you truly do. More often, it is a form of self deceit.

The same is true of God. There is no way that God can be limited; this is the very nature of the infinite. We are not meant to get our minds fully wrapped around the nature of God, because since He is infinite, it would require an infinite amount of time to do so. And good news; He has seen fit to give us this long. It is not the end of the journey that will be half so important, it is the fact that we travel on it. We pursue a deeper knowledge of God, knowing that we will never know it all, but that we can know more and more each day. That knowledge enriches us. It makes our lives more full. It helps us understand love better. And the positive thoughts and feelings we get from the pursuit will be infinite, as our journey will be infinite.

It is time for us to free our minds from the sub-containers we construct within it. It is time we allow for the power of God to made manifest in our lives in ways we could not even conceive of. But that is the point; we do not have to conceive of them, to see them accomplished. We can submit, and rest in the lap of our infinite God, as He works out His will in our lives. This is the beauty of trusting the source of all that is good, we need have no fear, whatever God brings, even the things we cannot quickly understand, are for our well being, and for the benefit of others. I praise our infinite God for the wonder I will never fully understand, and for the opportunity He has provided to prove it …

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