One of the things I feel very passionate about is my desire to live outside the box. It’s not that I want to live a counter-culture life. It’s just that I refuse to be oppressed by needless constraint.
I’m not talking about tossing aside wise guidelines for living. What I’m talking about are rules, expectations, and assumptions that hem us in. If we are not careful, these things can limit our self-expression, our experiences, our potential, and our very life.
For many years, I was the queen of doing this to myself. As a child, I was just trying to fit in and be accepted. When that didn’t bring about the results I hoped for, I spent my teenage years living on the wild side.
I suppose I was still trying to fit in and be accepted, but with a decidedly different crowd. When I began to see that my behavior was harmful to my body, soul and spirit, I went too far the other way and lived the next few decades of my adult life in a self-made box.
The box I constructed was made up of a long list of do’s and don’ts. Most were gleaned from church sermons, Christian radio programs, misguided Bible study and my extremely hyperactive conscience. As the years went by, my list of do’s and don’ts grew until the box was so small that there was no room to breathe, no room to be myself, and no room for joy.
I saw that I was cramped, but I mistakenly thought the only way God would accept me is if I was a perfect rule follower. I am so grateful my Heavenly Father saw my pathetic living conditions and said, “Girl! What are you doing? Get thyself outta thine Kleenex box and start living already!“
I didn’t break out overnight. It was a process. I slowly came to grasp the reality that Christ came not to make us captives, but to set us free to be all that we were created to be. Eventually, I was able to leave all that cardboard behind and move toward a free and joy-filled life.
It saddens me that the church so often hampers our progress in this regard. I don’t think it is intentional, by any means. It is simply the natural result of trying to dictate human behavior instead of explaining how passionately and profoundly we are loved. Not all churches are like this, to be sure. Yet, I’ve been to plenty where they were handing out boxes instead of dismantling them.
The church isn’t the only guilty party, though. Have you ever told someone something about yourself that surprised them because the new information you shared didn’t fit into the little box they had created for you? Being the rebel I am so glad I have become, this is one of my favorite things to do!
I don’t want to be hard on my fellow box-makers, though, because we all do it. It is simply how our brains file and store information. Even so, I am constantly challenging myself not to do this.
I don’t want to put myself in a box ever again. Neither do I want to do this to anyone else. I would prefer, instead, to use those boxes to hold all the things I have learned to strip off that prevent me from being completely free to live a life dictated not by rules . . . but by love.