Very early in my teaching career as I was struggling to make sense of everything new that was expected of me, a very wise principal told me, “Well, sometimes we just put ourselves in our own boxes.” I wasn’t sure what that meant then, but as the years went by I began to understand it more and more. Walt Kelley had his animal character, Pogo, say, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” Both of those quotes seemed to be saying that we are often our own worst enemy.

A literal box is useful in many ways. They can conceal a gift for a loved one, pack items for storage, protect valuable things from little fingers or make a good playhouse for small children.

A box is often a metaphor for something that keeps others away or traps us inside of it. That kind of box could be a playpen for a toddler, a teen’s bedroom, an adult’s cubicle, a prisoner’s jail cell or even our own home during a long snowstorm. The term “boxed in” often refers to the feeling of having no alternative or escape route.

In our Christian walk we can sometimes feel boxed in by duties such as: marriage, children, deadlines, debt, schedules, etc, etc. It is tempting to blame our society and our circumstances on other people or the lack of choices. Very seldom are we boxed in by outside forces like traffic jams, power outages and tax increases. Much more often the dilemmas we face started with decisions and choices we made in the past.

Adam and Eve had the choice to live in paradise and walk with God while having all their needs provided. The bad choice they made still affects mankind today because of the consequences of sin. Jesus Christ seemed to be boxed in with no escape in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mt 26:36). He made the agonizing self-sacrificing choice (Php 2:8) (Heb 5:7-9) that will bring eternal salvation to anyone who trusts and obeys (Acts 2:38) (Mk 16:16).

We should not feel trapped in any metaphorical box when we have so many helpers ready and willing to pull us out of that box: the angels (Heb 1:14), the Holy Spirit (Eph 3:16), our brethren (Gal 6:2), and of course the Godhead (Jo 14:16, 23).

—Jim Bailey