Breaking Boxes

"The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit." (John 3:8 NKJV).

Christmas is the season when wrapping paper, bows, ribbons, and boxes make their annual appearance. Wrapping gifts for people I love is a joy because I appreciate blessing others with tangible expressions of my feelings. But, have you ever tried to wrap a football without a box so a child can't tell what it is? After many years of trying to keep my gifts a mystery until they are unwrapped, I've concluded that boxes simplify the wrapping process. Cut the paper to size, tape the middle around the box, fold and tape the ends, and there you have it— a wrapped present.

However, aside from Christmas, I'm not a big fan of boxes. It's too easy to live in one.

Every fabric of my being resists being boxed in. That is what the artificial constraints of misguided motives and self-imposed boundaries do to us. They govern our thinking, feeling, and actions for no good reason. We all know the sound of that little voice inside us. It whispers things like, "You shouldn't feel sad. Christians should be joyful," or "what will everyone think if you do that?" or "why can't you be like everyone else and fit in?" No matter how pretty the box is, our desire to please or perform for others is toxic. Such intentions suffocate the Life of the Spirit within us. Creativity dies. When you and I give into such ideas, we sacrifice our unique identity in Christ and His leadership on the altar of fear.

It is comforting to realize that Jesus faced intense pressure to fit into social and religious boxes 2,000 years ago. The Pharisees tried to force and threaten Jesus to conform to their understanding of how a spiritual leader should think, feel, and act. Some of His followers wanted Him to lead a revolt against Rome—turning away in disappointment when He refused. The Lord's own family thought he'd gone crazy. The disciples wanted Him to tone His messages down to avoid persecution. Jesus rejected the box-like conformity—and its empty promises—in favor of something more challenging.

Jesus lived with an unshakeable attachment to His Father. Nurturing their connection, He grew into His identity as God's Son and did everything His Father directed. He fearlessly and unashamedly shared the joy, attachment, individuality, and creativity of being God's child with all those around Him. Fully expressing His Life and purpose, Jesus refused to live in the boxes prescribed by others. Eventually, His nonconformity led to His crucifixion.

The path of conformity would have been safe, but Jesus chose to walk God's trail—fully embracing the life and creativity His Father set before Him. Jesus' life still resonates through the ages in the hearts of His people because of how He fulfilled His calling.

He is our example. As His beloved child, God calls us to a radical connection with Him. Each day is a journey of walking more fully into our absolutely loving and perfect Father's design for our life. Hidden in Christ, our identity slowly reveals itself. We see our reflection in the twinkle of His eyes. Discovering the grace, love, joy, and peace that saturate God's leadership in our life, we become more fully alive—infused with His creativity.

Jesus describes this kind of life in John 3:8, "The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit." This passage provides a box-busting picture of the Life of God that can be at work in all of us. As I read other translations and commentaries, this verse became even more exciting. Studying the phrase, "The wind blows where it wishes," we learn another possible translation of the original language: "The Spirit breathes where He desires, and you hear His voice, but you do not know from where He comes, and where He goes; so is everyone having been generated from the Spirit." (LITV). While "wind" helps make the verse's metaphor more consistent, the alternative translation excites me. It paints an incredible picture of God-breathed life in the Spirit!

Life with Him defies being boxed into conformity and unleashes the intense creativity of God's Spirit through His people. Consider the frontiers God calls us to pioneer if we allow Him to move and shape our life: doesn't it make your heart leap? There is much more to the Life of God than what we know and have experienced. You and I have barely scratched the surface of what can be. Undoubtedly, the oppressive, smothering, suffocating boxes of performance and pleasing others are not the way God wants us to live.

As we enter 2023, I encourage you to take time to join me in prayerful reflection:

  • Am I living or struggling within the confines of a self-imposed box?

  • What does that box look like, and why is it in my life?

  • Am I wrestling with boxes others have prescribed? What do I lose by living in this box?

  • What do I imagine my life might look like without this box?

  • Is there anything God might want to communicate with me about His Life?

Wishing you a Joyful, Peaceful, Grace-filled 2023!

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