What exactly is a God-Box?
God-Box is a metaphor for the ways that we experience and
connect with God. So, for instance, if I always feel
close to God when I hear Gospel music or Mozart, those are
things that go in my God-Box. And it’s not just music.
I might find that saying a creed helps me connect or being
alone in the woods or playing with a baby. It can be anything
really. If it is a sure-fire way of helping me connect to
God, it’s in the box.
Also in the God-Box are ideas and images that represent
God for us. Many imagine God as a Father, Chronicles
of Narnia fans turn to God as a lion, and still others would rather
leave images alone and think merely of Spirit. And then there
are the doctrines and beliefs that we hold about who God
is and how God behaves. All of those things are part of our
God-Box, the limited way that we have come to know and understand
And that’s the point of the book. The God-Box is not
bad, but it is limited. We can understand some of God, but
not all. The problem is not the box, but the lid…closing
off our experience of and beliefs about God and thinking
we have all the answers. This is a book about taking off
the lid, regaining humility and recognizing that God is big.
Really, really big.
did your belief that your religion was the only way to
God evolve into your present thinking that God is far
beyond our human conceptions and limitations?
it was my initial fundamentalism that pulled me out. One
thing fundamentalists do absolutely right is
to be serious about their faith and about the Bible. The
Bible is, every word, the Word of God. So that belief led
me to do a radical thing…actually read the Bible, cover
to cover, many times. As I read, I found that many of my
beliefs about God and faith were challenged. It seemed to
demand humility on the part of human beings, and every so
often God chews people out for getting too uppity and assuming
that they know all there is to know. The come-uppance in
the speech of Yahweh to Job is one such place, but there
are also other verses scattered here and there: “Your
ways are not my ways,” in Psalm 139, and “I will
have mercy on whom I will have mercy and compassion on whom
I will have compassion,” in Romans 9:15.
thing fundamentalists do right is take prayer seriously.
They have no doubt that God both hears and answers prayer…not
just by giving something we have asked for, but by communicating
with people in a way we can understand. There were times
that God spoke to me in prayer and led me to a larger understanding.
My call to ministry was a primary example of that. I kept
telling God that I couldn’t do that because I was a
woman and the Bible forbid it. But as I prayed, God kept
telling me to do it anyway and showed me other ways that
Paul’s writing could be true without limiting God’s
ability to call whomever God chose.
Lastly, the experiences of my life, blended with Scripture,
taught me that God must be bigger than what I currently believed.
Chief among those experiences was my friendship with Celeste,
the woman to whom I dedicated the book. Celeste gave up her
Roman Catholic faith as a teenager and put nothing in its
place. My belief system taught me that she was going to go
to hell for that, and I lived many years in that fear.
the end, however, it just didn’t square with either
my experience of God or the picture of God that was emerging
from my growing familiarity with the Biblical witness. “Beloved,
let us love one another. For love is of God and everyone
that loves is born of God and knows God.” 1 John 4:7.
Celeste was certainly capable of love, which according to
that verse put her squarely into the arms of God. Moreover,
if God left the decision up to me, I would not send Celeste
to hell, and wasn’t God kinder and more loving and
more merciful than me? We had all better hope so. My love
for my best friend pried the lid right off my box.
value do you see in creeds and statements of faith?
I think it’s really important that each of us has
some idea of what we believe. I have preached on the Apostle’s
Creed and often encourage people I work with to write out
their own creed. It’s a way of figuring out exactly
what we actually believe. There is too much negative faith
out there…that is, people simply stating that they
don’t believe this or that. Well, that’s fine,
but our faith needs some positive content. If you don’t
believe that God is like a father, for instance, what do
you believe God is like?
Everyone needs a creed, and I think it is enormously helpful
to form that creed in conversation with the creeds and statements
of faith in our own faith traditions. The ancient creeds
have a way of keeping us connected to the communion of saints.
It gives us roots. We can branch out in different directions
from those roots, and interpret them quite differently; but
I find them helpful to my faith. They help me retain a sense
of community. In all of it we just have to remember that
any creed is incapable of capturing the complete truth about
God. God is hinted at in the creeds, but God is bigger than
any one of them, or even all of them put together.
you see evidence for hope that God-boxes around the world
can be opened rather than nailed tightly shut?
say that charity begins at home, and I think that applies to
God-box lids as well. When I look at the tightly
closed boxes both at home and abroad, I want to go up on
a mountaintop with my “The End Is Near” sign.
I get very discouraged. But when I look around closer to
home, things don’t look quite so bleak. I have seen
people with some very tightly closed boxes start to open
them up, letting in enough light so that the fear factor
goes down and the love of others goes up—both telltale
signs of an open box. And it would be hard to have a more
closed box than I had, and I managed to get to the place
of writing this book. So I have to believe if there was hope
for me, then there is hope for others and, by extension,
for the world. We can open up, one box at a time.
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