A good buddy of mine came over to fix my sprinklers yesterday. A couple weeks ago, when I had turned my outside water back on, things started happening that were not necessarily supposed to be happening. The fact that there was a problem was quite apparent; what that problem was, however, was far beyond where my limited expertise in sprinklerology could take me. So, Mick came over, quickly diagnosed it as a dual problem – stuck valve and bad sprinkler head – and said, “Let me go to my truck and get my plumbing box.”
Now, to someone like me who has a/one/uno box (sparsely populated with various orphaned sockets, a random assortment of screwdrivers, a hammer, and a long spool of heavy gauge wire which must have spontaneously generated in that dark, murky environ since I can think of no situation in which I would have actually purchased, let alone used, such an item), the fact that Mick has a box specific just to plumbing issues causes a bit of envy and no small amount of awe. You got a problem? Mick’s got just the box to fix it!
That put me in mind of a story I read a few days ago out of 1 Samuel 4. The Israelites and the Philistines were tussling again. A battle took place at Ebenezer, and the Israelites got the wood taken to them. After licking their wounds, they realize they’re faced with a situation – how do they defeat a Philistine army that is bigger, stronger, and better armed than they are.
Then, somebody spoke up, “Uh…don’t we have a box for that?”
And they did. They had the God-box – that fancy little Ark of the Covenant thing that pretty much just sat around Shiloh gathering dust while the Israelites did the hand-jive with Baal and Ashtoreth. Next thing you know, the Israelite army is lined up again ready to go – their God of Surpassing Crateness leading the way, attended by Eli the High Priest’s sons, Hophni and Phinehas (two guys who could give Charlie Sheen a lesson or two on “Winning”).
You’ve probably figured out the rest. Armies meet, Israel crumbles like a bunch of broccoli, the ark is captured, Hophni and Phinehas are killed (and all God’s people said…), and Eli, upon hearing the news of the captured ark, dies in such a way so as to have every teacher in every school in every nation crying out, “See, I told you so!”
Now, jumping 3,000 years forward, it’s easy for us to say, “Silly Israelites, you should know you can’t put God in a box.” However, I think I’ll hold off a minute before I condescendingly pat them on their theologically ignorant little heads and send them on their way. Because as I do a 20/20 hindsight over my life, I’m a bit ashamed to see how many boxes I’ve tried to stuff God into.
My most recent attempts centered on the comfortable staff position I had at my previous church and my steadily growing retirement nest egg. As long as I had those two things, I was confident I could weather most storms that came my way. Then God took away my first little box, which ultimately resulted in my second little box doing a disappearing act. It took me losing everything before I could finally realize that my everything was really nothing. God wasn’t in those boxes. And if that’s what I was counting on for my peace and security, my hope was empty.
We all walk around with our little deity cartons. They may be in the shape of our wallet, our job, our retirement, our marriage, our kids, our church, our friends, our education – anything that we put our trust in other than God Himself. Problem is every one of these things can let us down or be taken from us, just ask Job (who lost everything but at least kept his wife and friends, which is somewhat akin to saying that Katniss Everdeen lost everything but at least kept President Coin and the leadership of District 13 [yeah, we’ll score that one Culturally Relevant Steve – 1 / Middle-Aged, Sore-Jointed, Bifocal-Wearing Father Who’s Still Mourning Steve Perry’s Departure From Journey Steve – 0]).
In Psalm 20:7, David writes, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.” And when we put our trust in the true God – not the God we try to stuff in our little boxes – we know we are in safe hands that will never let us down.