I once saw John Denver, hair wet and with a clothes bag tossed over his shoulder, heading through a hotel lobby toward the desk. Two weeks or so later, he crashed his plane and died.
Christian author Max Lucado is still very much alive and writing fine books. In his book Fearless he tells about introducing himself to a lady standing in a hotel check-in line with one of his books under her arm. He was hoping that her doctor hadn’t prescribed it as a cure for insomnia.
Well, wide awake she was, but she absolutely refused to believe that the guy talking to her, claiming to be Max Lucado, really was. She didn’t think he looked a thing like the thirty-year-old Max whose picture was on the back cover of her book.
Max finally gave up. The dear lady steadfastly preferred her “Max-in-a-box,” “freeze-framed in a two-by-three image” to the real thing. She missed a nice meeting with the author she admired, but she did provide him with a great illustration for a later book.
Lucado makes the point better than I could, but it really is sad when we make the mistake of preferring “God in a box” to the living Author of life and joy.
In a thousand ways, we try to tie God up in the boxes we prefer. Instead of allowing God to shape us into his image, we want him to look just like us. We much prefer him to be a member in good standing of our particular group and no one else’s. We want him to share all our pet peeves and prejudices, bless our particular persnicketiness and pious piffle. Frightened of a meeting with the Lion of the tribe of Judah, we like a safe Lord all tied up and constrained, muted and tamed, Christ the King of the universe nicely contained in a cardboard box.
The heart of the problem? Fear.
I wonder if there aren’t a good many folks who know enough about God to worry about the fire of his holiness but not enough about him to feel the warmth and joy of his inexhaustible mercy and love, not enough to let God’s perfect love cast out their fear so that they can respond to his warm embrace? They look at church folks, too often busy tying up God in their own boxes, and naturally wonder about anyone who would try to hold a nuclear reaction in a cardboard box.
And church folks? We’ve long displayed a morbid fascination with walls, be they cardboard or stone. Deep and soul-shrinking fear causes us to trust the walls that constrain and blind us more than we trust the Savior whose pardon and power free us and who will never be content to stay behind the walls we build.
Were it not for soul-throttling fear, we might all step out of our boxes more often, meet more of the family, actually learn something from each other, and together glorify the Lord we can never “manage, control, and predict.”
Two things, at least, are sure. We’ll never get God tame enough to stay in any of our boxes. But that completely untamed Lion loves us all with a joy-filled fierce and beautiful love.