The God Box, part 2
As I mentioned in the prior post, this is a story I wrote a few years ago. The story, like many others, is open to some interpretation, so don’t assume that you know my own. In fact, part of what’s interesting about this story is that my thinking on some issues has changed since I wrote it, so I read it differently myself now than I did 6 years ago.
Continued from here.
… “These are your God Boxes.”
This did not fit in with any of Andy’s expectations. “God Boxes? I don’t think I’ve ever heard the term before.” Caroline nodded in agreement, her face the picture of pure bewilderment.
“The God Box is where we put everything we know about God. It helps keep it orderly, and,” referring to Caroline’s question a moment ago, “it helps us keep on the right track.”
“I don’t think I understand,” said Andy slowly.
“It’s really very simple,” Pastor John continued, unfazed by their lack of understanding. “Religion can be a very messy thing.” To this, both Andy and Caroline nodded in agreement.
“We have had many people come into this church over the years, and most of them arrive with all kinds of strange ideas and doctrines that simply don’t belong.”
“Belong where?” interjected Caroline.
“Into the church,” replied John quickly. “It just doesn’t belong here. I am talking strange ideas about the past, strange ideas about the future – all kinds of mumbo-jumbo that we simply don’t need. Christianity can be a very simple, neat thing. That’s what the God Box is all about.”
“So, ideas go in the box?” ventured Andy.
“Ideas, guidelines, disciplines – it all goes in the God Box. Everything you need to live a nice, normal Christian life will fit in this little box. Amazing, isn’t it?”
“Yes,” they replied together, although not at all sure. “I am truly amazed,” answered Andy.
“Reincarnation,” said the Pastor, “will not fit into the God Box. There is simply no place for it. Therefore, we know we don’t need it. The same goes for polygamy. No room at the inn, so to speak. The same goes for drinking, extramarital sex and homosexuality, as well as for wild-eyed healers and speaking in tongues. See? The God Box gives us a nice, orderly way to live our lives. We have the freedom of boundaries!”
With that, Pastor John leaned back and draped his left arm over the back of his chair. “So, what do you think?”
“Well .,” hesitated Caroline.
“Does everyone in this church have a God Box?” asked Andy.
“Certainly. It’s how we keep on the same page around here. We’ve never had a big mess like some of the other churches. No running off with the organist, no child abuse, no snake-handling. Just peace and contentment.”
“We did notice the church was very calm and orderly,” offered Caroline.
“Absolutely. No swinging from the chandeliers here,” John affirmed.
Andy leaned forward. “Do other churches have God Boxes?”
Pastor John smiled, “Ah, I knew you were a thinker, Andy. And I like that about you.” He stood and walked over to a picture window looking out down Main Street. Andy could see at least two other church steeples.
“Yes, they all have God Boxes. Only,” he gestured with his right index finger in the air for emphasis, “we’re the only ones who admit it.”
He turned and once again sat down opposite them. “Let’s take a quick look at your boxes. You will notice compartments inside. Don’t be fooled by the relative size of the compartments – that has nothing to do with a thing’s importance.”
They stared into their boxes, as if they might suddenly see something that could make them comprehend what Pastor John was telling them.
“For example, there’s a small compartment for Salvation. You’ve prayed the prayer, you’re born again, that’s all we need to say about it. See, we’ve written the date right in there. In case you ever start to doubting, all you need to do is glance in the box.”
John let this sink in, then continued, “you will now notice that the ‘Don’t’ section is somewhat larger than the “Do” section. That’s not because they are more important than the ‘Dos’, it’s just that the Don’ts take more room – there are more of them. The ‘Dos’ are mainly prayer and Bible reading. Not much room for negotiation there!
“In the ‘Do’ compartment is a large place for Tithing. That’s important, but you don’t really need to understand why for now. There’s plenty of time for that.”
Sensing he was perhaps losing their focus, John raised his voice slightly, “The entire bottom half of the boxes is called ‘Eschatology,’ which is a big word meaning the last days.” John looked over at Caroline, both thinking that ‘last days’ meant nothing to them, either.
“The other compartment is the belief section, with compartments for the infallibility of the Bible, the Trinity, and so on. Don’t worry, you have plenty of time to figure all of this out. That’s exactly what the box is for!”
Andy shifted in his chair, wondering when exactly it would be a good time to leave.
“The God Box takes all of the thinking and worrying away from living the overcoming Christian life. Now, if you are thinking that perhaps the box is too small, let me assure you that I’ve tried boxes of different sizes, and I am fully satisfied that these boxes are the perfect size to hold everything you need. If it won’t fit in here, it’s not worth thinking about! And,” he paused to get their full attention, “the 1500 members of this church will agree.”
“Well,” said Caroline, her mind racing. “Thank you. You’ve sure given us some things to think about.”
“Yes,” added Andy, getting to his feet. “Thank you so much for your time. I can’t wait to start using this.” Andy waved the box slightly.
“You’re very welcome,” replied Pastor John, beaming. “Again, it’s such a pleasure to have you with us. Before long, you’ll be just like one of the family – happy, content, without ever having to think about your spiritual lives again.”
“Thank you again,” they both chimed, as they escorted themselves out.
Andy and Caroline were silent as they walked to their car, parked just out of sight of the Pastor’s study window. Andy pushed the black control on his keychain and beeped the doors open. “Whadya think?”
“I don’t know.” her voice trailed off. She thought for a moment, but remained silent. “How about you?”
Andy shrugged. “It’s certainly not what I was expecting.”
“Me either. Judy never mentioned a God Box.”
“Can’t say I blame her.” Andy leaned back against the car, and gave his God Box a suspicious glance. “It sounds nuts. I mean, I don’t claim to know anything about religion, but even to me.”
Caroline looked Andy in the eyes, “You know that feeling we had in church last Sunday, like we could feel God?” Andy nodded as Caroline continued, “and that feeling, like lightness, that you’ve talked about?” Andy nodded again.
“Well,” Caroline opened the lid on her box and peered inside. “I was just thinking, I don’t think there’s any room in this box for those.”
Andy paused a moment to let it sink in, then quietly breathed, “yeah.” He opened Caroline’s door, then paused for a moment as he considered what to do with his God Box. They looked at each other with a new-found wisdom and smiled. Without speaking Caroline handed Andy her box.
Andy pushed the button on his key chain again, lifted the trunk lid, and tossed in the boxes. Caroline looked over at Andy and smiled, “I could maybe use it as a jewelry box.”
Fishing tackle, Andy thought as they pulled out of the lot.