Boxes

where there is doubt, faith;

One of my students at New Brunswick Theological Seminary explained her experience of growing in faith in these words:

Every time I learn more about God and myself, I build a beautiful box to hold onto my ideas and prayers. But every time I get the box built and feel at home with it, God comes along and breaks my box!

It’s one of the best descriptions of growing up in faith I’ve ever heard, and I think of it often. When I get comfortable with my version of self, world, and God, God comes along and breaks my box. My beautiful box is shattered by the grace of God when God, world, and self cannot fit inside it. What’s too small and tight cracks open, giving my faith the breathing room I didn’t even know it needed.

I’ve known teachers and pastors who like to shake people up by dropping verbal bombs to shatter people’s notions of who God is and how the world works. I’ve known others who won’t say anything that might make anyone uncomfortable, afraid to make anyone question their idea of God and self. The first break beautiful boxes without thought, the second cover those boxes in bubble wrap.

It’s not my job to break the beautiful boxes people create, and it’s not my job to keep those boxes whole and safe. My job is to remember that God holds all things fast, and to remind others of this truth. I have no doubt that God will break the beautiful boxes in due time – when it’s an act of grace and love, not a violation.

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Johnna

I am a Christian educator and writer.I have worked in churches, denominational offices, and seminaries. I have a PhD in Theology from Princeton Theological Seminary, with a focus on Practical Theology and educating in faith. In 2010, my book, "How the Other Half Lives: the challenges facing clergy spouses and partners," was published by Pilgrim Press. I believe that words can build doorways that lead to encounters with God through the Spirit.

2 thoughts on “Boxes”

  1. tres, très vrai–though I sure do know plenty of people who are stuck in their boxes and cling to old images of God with great ferocity. They seem to have bubble-wrapped the whole thing. Your student was fortunate to have a professor who challenged those in the class to “think outside the box” (sorry for that). I think a lot of people eventually grow in their faith due to events and circumstances in their own life but there are others I’m not so sure of. After all It is painful to wander around outside your comfort zone, leaving trusted concepts behind and instead trusting in God’s grace to pull you through changing the context not the concept.

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