People love boxes. More boxes equal more stuff and we love stuff even more than boxes, but boxes mean we have stuff. We like boxes and we want pretty boxes. The organizational section of any given department store or Fred Meyer has an overwhelming display of sizes, shapes and colours. Not only do we organize our stuff by putting it in boxes, we also catalogue our lives into allegorical boxes, labeling everything from experiences to people.
We love our boxes, and yet, some common phrases, “outside the box”, or “boxed in” and descriptions such as “boxy” denote a negative connotation. It seems that although we love to live our lives in boxes (constricted way of thinking and living); we have a sense that there is more to life than what we’ve put in our box. If that’s true, should we get rid of the box entirely?
I’m not making an argument either for or against living within a defined method of thinking. I can’t imagine life without it because I like the comfort and security a defined box provides. Whether or not boxes are necessary for living isn’t the question but the knowledge Jesus is beside us in the box is the only answer we need.
Despite the comfort of my box, I am aware having a narrow focus may hinder my ability to serve God; mercifully God is not hindered by my narrow box. Several years ago I read Quiet Shouts – Stories of Lancaster Mennonite Women Leaders by Louise Stoltzfus. The book chronicled many women dating from the turn of the 20th century up to around 1950. As I was reading, I was struck by the amazing way God chose to work through women in leadership capacities, despite in the past women have been unable to officially work in church leadership roles. He acknowledges our boxes and simply increases the size so his plans are still fulfilled.
We’ve heard humans use less than 10% of their brain capacity. What if God intended us to live large but like our limited brain function, we are only living 10% of the life we could be living? Often the 10% life we are living seems quite adequate and most of the time we don’t realize there’s more – until we read it John 10:10 when Christ said, “I have come that they may have life and have it to the full,” and we say to ourselves, “Oh yeah, life to the fullest – I wonder what it looks like?”
Matthew 14 offers a glimpse of what life might be like if we filled our box. It had been an incredible day –it started out by hearing some very bad news – John the Baptist, Jesus’ friend and cousin was brutally beheaded and when he tried to get away by boat to absorb the awful news, crowds of people followed on foot and surrounded him when he reached his destination. The Bible says Jesus had compassion on the crowd and healed the sick.
He let go of his own emotional needs to heal the emotional and physical needs of the people. On the same day, Jesus also miraculously fed 5,000 men (plus women & children). Wow. Living a full life means we can give graciously to others, despite our own needs. We also receive a glimpse if we allow God to work, we are not confined (nor defined) by our inadequate physical offerings. Jesus shows us the possibility by his example and Peter shows us the reality and the hope.
It all happened in one day and afterward Jesus sent the disciples on their way while he continued to deal with the crowd. After experiencing the exhilaration of watching God at work firsthand, you would think the disciples immediately rushed to tell others about the impossibilities that become possibilities through the Holy Spirit. Sadly, they reacted like many of us do; they got back into their fishing boats because that’s what they knew to do – it was familiar and comfortable.
Perhaps the disciples didn’t deserve another chance at redemption but Jesus didn’t come so they could be satisfied with fishing, he wanted to give them a fuller life, so in the middle of the night, they saw Jesus walking towards them on the water! Everyone was terrified, but Peter said, “Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.” In other words, Peter was asking, “Lord, if it’s you, expand my way of thinking, give me fuller life and let me do what you do.” And Peter did it.
The hope Peter gives us is it’s possible for simple human beings to expand our thinking (and so our box becomes larger) and do miraculous things – as long as our gaze is fixed on Jesus. Jesus wants to give us life to the full; keep your gaze on Jesus in all circumstances and be prepared as He increases the size of your box.
Enjoy life and live large.