Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Boxing up God

I wrote the following two paragraphs two Sundays ago. We were in the middle of worship service, and one of the songs was talking about how expansive and beyond our understanding God is. Being a good reader, I made the connection between that and a conversation I had recently had with a dear friend of mine. As I love to write, and process best through writing, I took a few minutes in church at that time to write down the following thoughts I had as a result of that connection.

In our human minds, we have to try to see God from the minute perspective that we have. I had a conversation with a friend recently about how much she resented people trying to put her in a box – forcing her to be something she does not want to be. After talking with her for awhile, we (Chris and I) raised the point that people don’t put us in a box. Yes, they have a box that they mentally see us in, but they cannot actually shove us into the confines of their box without our consent. And that is the key. We choose how we live – who we are – regardless of the perceptions (boxes) of those around us. Yes, other people can have an impact on who we are, that cannot be denied. But how we respond to that shaping and pushing is still our choice. No other person can force us to be something we do not choose to be. A wise individual will recognize that we all do this to one another and not feel affronted by other people doing the natural human action of boxing people up. It is the human way of trying to grasp that which is so far beyond us. A wise person will also remember that he or she does the exact same thing to other people – consciously or unconsciously.

In the same way, we do this to God. The trick here though, and with humans, is to realize that we do have these boxes (expectations/perspectives) that we put around other, and to do our best to keep the walls of these boxes flexible enough that not only can that person (or God) change the look of our boxes, they can change the very shape, size, and content. It takes humility and an open mind to be willing to allow our perspective to be changed. If we refuse to see anyone else but by the box we have placed them in, we have a warped perspective of whom they are. Most people morph and change over time. How much more so does that apply to God. Trying to place Him in a box leads to stale religion and liturgy with no meaning. Recognizing that He is as vast and diverse – while simultaneously being omniscient and omnipresent – than anyone other being, will allow him to move and shape – not just our perspective of him, but the very fabric of the boxes we place Ourselves into.

Those were my thoughts a few weeks ago. Imagine my amusement when, on Sunday, pastor stole my ideas in his sermon. And expanded on them a little bit! For the past few weeks, he has been talking about how important it is, as a Christian, to not sit idly by and expect God to come to us and do great things in our lives. Our God is a living, active God who constantly is on the move doing new and vital things. Assuming that the way in which we experienced God at one point in our lives will stay the same forever and ever, is ridiculous. Yes, that experience we had with Him when we were 16 was precious and great, but is He always going to meet us in that way? Probably not. Paul talks about growing and eating more adult food instead of milk. So, why shouldn’t our perspectives and experiences with God morph and develop as we get older (both literally and spiritually)? We place unrealistic expectations on Him; no one wonder people sometimes become disappointed or feel jaded. That’s like meeting someone you used to play with as a child and expecting that person to be exactly like the five year old they were when you last saw them despite the fact that they’re now 32!

Any ways, those are the basic ideas behind this boxing thought I’ve had rolling around in my brain the last few weeks. It’s been a good reminder to not only remember that I have changed over the years – and so hopefully others won’t refuse to reshape their own perspectives of me, but that I too need to recognize the changes in others and be willing to shape my perspectives of them and not try to shove them into the box that I originally formed for them in my mind.

Just a last note. I was talking to my Dad about this, and he commented that it has been proven that one of the common features of all societies (and I remember talking about this in one of my TESOL classes) is that people have to categorize things. I wonder, sometimes, if that is not one of the reasons we are so limited in our mental usage. We don’t allow ourselves to – great cliché phrase here! – “look beyond the box.”

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