Do you ever look at some toys and wonder how on earth it doesn't terrify a child? For me every time I have come across a jack-in-the-box, I wonder that exact question. If you haven't seen one, let me describe it to you, it's a box that you wind and then all of a sudden a clown pops out of it.
What I find even more terrifying, is that sometimes we treat our faith a little like a jack-in-the-box. We wind it when we need it and wait for it to pop and then we put it back until the next time we require it again.
Compartmentalising our lives is something that is rooted in the very basis of our society. We have our home life, our work life, our social life, our church life etc. Everything we have has been put in a box of its own. Even the most disorganised of people can fall into the trap of neatly organising their life into labelled and filed away boxes.
Sometimes we go even a step further and compartmentalise people in our life. We have our family, our school friends, our church friends, or work friends etc. Everyone and everything seems to have a box of its own that it fits into. I often wonder if the distinction of these boxes means that we feel we need to act or be different when we open one of these boxes.
Don’t get me wrong, I think that sometimes we need these boxes. Working and living from home this year has meant that I have needed to form some sort of routine in order to keep myself sane and keep work and home life in their own separate boxes.
This has been hugely beneficial in keeping me ticking along and enjoying both working during and relaxing after work. It has benefited my environment, working away from my room has meant that I don't feel stressed at night when I try to go to sleep.
Our faith box?
However, something that I have found is that although some things in life have their own time, place and box. Our faith and relationship with God is not designed to be in a box, yet so often we put it in one. There are two distinct ways I’ve seen this happen in my own life.
The first is the ‘jack-in-the-box’ and the second is the ‘ticking the box.’ The jack-in-the-box is where in the busyness of life we fall into the trap of only intentionally seeking God when we need something, when bad times hit, or when we feel like God is not near. We then for a short period of time are proactive about our faith life, winding the box waiting for God to show up in our worlds.
The second is ticking the box. This is where we set a routine so stringent to spend time with God that we can almost completely miss the point of it. We do because we ‘have to’ not because we ‘want to.’
Don’t confuse this with me saying routine is bad. That is not what I am saying at all. Setting aside time to spend with God is needed. However, that should not be the only time we spend with God in our day. Although reading our bibles is pivotal, our relationship with God is not confined to the 30 minutes we spend reading our bible in the morning. It goes much further than that. Yet we often can treat faith as an item on our to-do list instead of a relationship.
Bigger than our boxes
God is much bigger than our boxes. Yet so often we try to fit him in, when in reality he exceeds all boxes. So how do we stop confining God to boxes?
#1 We need to remember that God is not a jack-in-the-box nor is He a genie in a bottle. Relationship with God means constantly working towards getting to know God through His word and time with him, not just remembering God when it is convenient for us.
#2 We need to remember that in order to be in a relationship with God it requires more than just the time we set aside to read our bibles. Reading our bible is part of it, the other part comes from spending time in prayer, fellowship with other Christians, going to church, outworking our faith practically and so much more.
#3 Ticking boxes I find often comes from a need to ‘live the perfect Christian life’ and to do things all correctly. This mentality needs to shift. God has called us to be in relationship with Him and through that we learn how to change our lives for the better. Reading the bible, going to church etc should all be done because we want to get to know God deeper, not because it's the ‘Christian thing to do.’
Have a look at the boxes you have created in your world. Find the ones that are good and needed. And try find the ways in which you may have accidentally tried to slot God into some. Those boxes are probably the ones that need to be opened.
Araina Kazia Pereira from Wellington, New Zealand is a published writer having written for various outlets and most recently joining as a Press Service International young writer. She enjoys asking the big questions and writing about the challenging questions that she has wrestled with in her own journey, as well as her learnings along the way. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.