I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how many boxes exist in me, around me, in this world.
About the boxes we throw entire people groups into, regarding their race/ethnicity/skin color, sexual preference or gender identity, religion, economic status, etcetera etcetera etcetera.
I’ve been well aware of these boxes for years and once I began seeing them, I realized they were everywhere. I hated them. I got a tattoo as a constant reminder to not put people in boxes, to fight to rip down boxes, to open boxes up and let some air out, to listen to people in boxes.
More recently though, I’ve been thinking about the boxes I have placed around things like marriage and parenting and intimacy and relationships and the heart of God.
It seems like so many of the thick walls are crashing down as I dive deeper into His heart, aching more than anything to be the most whole me there can be. And it’s like He is setting me free by revealing boxes that were never meant to be built.
But damn the boxes are thick and they’re strong and they are certainly built into each of us. Especially those of us who were raised in this Christian culture shoving us towards some “right” way of living, right way of being, right way of thinking.
There was little room for question, little room for God’s heart to be big and expansive, little room for the trueness that is grace. I mean, we said these things. We were told these things. That God chased the prodigal son and that He died for each of us and we can all have salvation as long as we say the magical prayer and read our Bibles every morning at 6 am and definitely don’t have sex before marriage. That always seemed to be a big focus: no sex before marriage. No idea what sex is supposed to be like after marriage, but dammit if you have sex before marriage, you’re essentially destined to hell.
I find myself living in my worst nightmare. The kind of nightmare you didn’t even believe could happen in the darkest of nights to you. The kind of nightmare that only happens to other people, less holy people.
It’s the kind of nightmare where every thing sucks, where there is no going back to before the nightmare began because before was miserable, it was just the hidden kind. The kind that is mostly hidden from even yourself…because you so, so don’t want it to be reality. The kind of hidden that forces you to numb yourself, slowly and steadily, as you inch towards a shell of a human.
Before the nightmare woke us all up, I was slowly dying a quiet, secret death. It was okay enough though, because I was believing it to be okay enough and wanted it to be okay enough so badly.
I wanted it to be okay because the boxes that formed me and shaped my thinking and exist very much in my family and community are strong and terrifying…and honestly downright painful when you begin to open up the boxes and live differently than everyone else wants you to.
So, before…slowly dying a hidden and secret, numbed death, halfway hidden to even myself. Is that a way to live? Not it’s not and it wasn’t working for any of us.
Now… I am standing in fire. We are on fire. I cannot tell you how much fire surrounds me: it’s all I feel. Now it feels like I AM dying and very aware of it. Loss and grief and devastation infiltrates every piece of my life. I have never felt so bare.
And the boxes. They’ve popped up everywhere. They’ve popped up in emails from family members, letting me know they have the answers to questions they weren’t asked…or answers to things they don’t actually know about. The boxes have popped up in my voicemail box, in my texts, in my head, in face to face conversations. Boxes have been thrown around my kids during this nightmare, and that is one sure way to not hear from me…it is one way for me to box you out. Boxes are hurtful and manipulative and downright inappropriate.
Maybe all this box-talk makes no sense to you and just to me and my brain.
Here are the things Jesus has been teaching me on a very intimate level, ever so recently:
He is surely with me.
He is surely with me, even when it feels like no one else is.
There is Good for me on the other side of this nightmare, no matter what the outcome of this nightmare is. I can’t see it. I don’t know that I fully believe it. But He says there is, so I am clinging to that promise.
The Good for me…well it’s Him. He is still there with me and for me. And that is Good. He is patient and kind and so gracious. His plan is for good, not harm.
He is incredibly big. Like so big and so vast and we cannot comprehend His will, especially when it looks backwards to the boxes we’ve built…but I fully believe that because the earth is broken, there is no perfect path and our journeys simply have pain. The best way to talk is walking with Him, hands open and heart surrendered. I say this in the least corny way a person can say it. I’m sure it still reads as corny.
Some of these boxes have revealed idols in me and in others I didn’t even realize were there. They are hidden idols, because they are wrapped up around things that are sacred…so these are the idols easy to miss (and dismiss as idols). It’s insane to me the fine line there is between sacredness and sin and twisting something meant for good into a prison of idolization.
He understands and knows and sees…even when literally no one else can or does.
It is okay to be mad, sad, disappointed, devastated, depressed. Jesus is still with me. I still see Him and feel Him and know He is with me.
When every thing is stripped from me, He remains.
There. Is. No. Formula.
I am seeing now more than ever the way idolize these boxes — whichever onces we are inherently enforcing or building or trying to keep standing— gripping them so freaking tightly, that we suffocate the people inside the box. How unloving is it that we build these boxes and then blame the people existing in them for their oppression, their being abused, their choosing to take a stand for their dignity, their poverty, their lack of resources, their choosing health and wholeness and hope and freedom…
Boxes are unjust. I refuse to climb back into the box for the sake of appearance or pleasing others.
I come back to the reality that we have one life on this Earth.
I want to live it well.
I want to live it honestly.
I want to be wholly healthy, and not just pretend healthy.
I want to be honest with myself. With God. With you.
I want to love well.
I want to seek justice, show mercy, and walk humbly with God.
But I cannot do those things while slowly numbing myself to death, so that I cannot feel pain. No, we must feel the pain begging to be felt and we must grab reality by the face and stare at it. It’s the only way to work our way through to the other side. To stare at what’s real, and to find Jesus in the midst of everything.
Box, you can GTFO.