One of the most iconic lines in movie history was in the film Jaws when Roy Schieder, upon seeing a twenty-five-foot Great White shark jump out of the water, said, “We’re gonna need a bigger boat!” When the ugly realities of life jump out at us or when monstrous suffering comes upon us, we might need, not a bigger boat, but a bigger life-box. And if we are not in abject distress, but want to grow in our own life, to become our most free and fulfilled selves, to heal from our previous woundedness and progress toward the ideal of Holy Mystery, then we are going to need ever bigger life-boxes.
Exploding The Myths
It is an urban myth that a pet turtle will grow larger if you put it in a bigger tank or life space. However, it is absolutely true that for humans to grow spiritually, emotionally, or intellectually they will need to expand themselves into ever bigger life spaces—bigger boxes.
Another myth is that humans can “think outside the box.” To think outside of the box is to be beyond our limits—an unreality. Outside the box is a vacuum, it is disconnected. But if we create a bigger box, expand our horizons, and slowly push out our limits, we can stay within ourselves and include all our previous boxes—all our histories, prior beliefs, and relationships. This is the way towards integration; our newer and bigger boxes always include all of our previous boxes as well as our newer understandings.
Therefore, thinking outside the box is a misnomer, since, as finite beings, we are time, space, and matter bound. But the box that God has created for us to live in is bigger than we can imagine; it is infinitely expanding and we can, we must, enlarge the confines of our self-imposed boxes in order to encounter God and grow as human beings. Thus, we don’t ever really think outside the box, but we can and should continue to be open to learn, to be transformed, to push the limits of our understanding and create ever larger boxes.
Escaping The Prison System?
The notion of our lives as boxes might seem confining, and it should. We are finite people. And sometimes the boxes we create (our beliefs, relationships, values, etc.) are so confining they can become like a prison that keeps us from growing and becoming truly free. I have noticed in my own brokenness a sense of needing to escape from one box or prison of my own making to another. On the other side, sadly, I have also noticed many others simply biding their time in their own prisons until their sentence is done and they die. They never grow, other than in despair and loneliness. Others learn how to escape their prisons, like me, thinking they are free, but still don’t realize that in escaping one box, they have just entered into a new prison-like box.
If we really come to understand ourselves, we will arrive at the conclusion that we are trapped in an extensive prison system (various rigid belief systems). So, escape isn’t the answer, but expanding the walls of our boxes (prison walls) ever further outwards is. Yet, how do we do this?
The Way To Growth And Freedom
Jesus said, “I am the gateway to the infinite; you can come and go as you please with me” (Jn 10:9). As I have encountered, who I am now calling, Jesus the Anarchist, the One who is absolutely free, yet in submissive communion with the whole world, I am starting to experience an ever-expanding life-box. I am no longer confined to just one way of reading the Bible, one way to worship or believe in God, but I am open to whatever the Spirit wants to teach me about myself, God, and the universe. Some people have discovered Jesus in a similar way, but call him the Cosmic Christ, Divine Mystery, or something else altogether. How ever you understand the infinite God, and whatever way you have opened yourself up to be changed, to expand your limits, the key is to encounter and believe in the Absolute Paradox, even Jesus, who can set us free. Jesus said, “With me you can know the Truth and then become truly free” (Jn 8:32; 14:6). This Truth does not confine you to being a “Christian” in the conventional sense, but opens up the possibility to expand your limited universe.
Helping Others Into Freedom
In my ministry, many of the veterans I serve are suffering from PTSD, Major Depressive Disorder, Moral Injury, Homelessness, or a host of Addictive or Mental Disorders. As I have come to embrace Jesus the Anarchist, the Absolute Paradox, I realize that I am not to minister to the suffering by helping them to reduce their pain, or shrink their suffering, or return them to some previous state of homeostasis. This is often impossible. I have come to understand that the way to spiritual healing for many of these suffering folk is to help them find ways to expand their boxes, increase their options, grow their choices, enlarge the size of their playing field, to broaden their healing potential rather than try to decrease their suffering. In growing the life-box, the suffering, the pain, or the distress takes up less life-space and permits the sufferer to roam more freely in their expanded self. This is what God wants to do for all of us. Jesus says, “Come to me and I will give you rest for your souls. I will expand your horizons and give you peace” (Mt 11:28-30).
Still, this is just an invitation, a choice we all need to continually make. Do you need a bigger box? Jesus is inviting you to grow with him. What better time to do this than now, on Christmas Day, the day we celebrate the always giving gift of Jesus!
© Paul Dordal, 2016