Lately, my life has been in boxes, of sorts. Two months ago, I moved from my home in southern California to New Jersey because I was offered a full-time job. Yaaaayyyy! I am so grateful for my new job and am excited to be living with one of my best friends (and her family - my second family!), but transitions are never the easiest thing. I am now working at a full-time office job for the first time, living in a new space, and lacking a car to get around on my own. It's not always easy, but I am glad to be surrounded by friends and blessed to have a good job in a positive environment.
In the last few months, the idea of boxes has come up in my meditations on several occasions. Boxes can be good - a place to hold treasures or keepsakes. A box can be a home - a place of safety and warmth. Tabernacles, Jesus' dwelling place on earth, are boxes...and we are called to be tabernacles, or homes for Jesus, allowing Him to dwell in us and work through us, radiating His presence to those we encounter. Boxes can also have a negative connotation; think "boxed in." Metaphorically, boxes can hold us back, containing something within us to an extreme. When I think of boxes, I usually think of the most mundane example of them: the cardboard box. There is nothing unique about a cardboard box. Once you've seen one, you've seen them all. There is something bland and confining about it if you see them in that light. I think of the song "Little Boxes" by Malvina Reynolds, a hippie folk singer and political activist (she was friends with Pete Seeger, if that helps you place her). Apparently, she wrote this song while driving through California, seeing new housing developments popping up throughout the state. The song goes something like this:
"Little boxes on the hillside, little boxes made of ticky tacky, little boxes on the hillside, little boxes all the same....and the people in the houses all went to the university where they were put in boxes and they came out all the same."
Take a listen if you don't believe me! :P I like the cute claymation video someone made for this.
How often have you felt like this? Like society has a way for us to do things - grow up, go to college, party your way through college, get a degree, have a career, have fun, get married, have a family, maybe get divorced, maybe not if you're lucky, be happy, - or at least be something that resembles happiness...blah blah blah. It can be tiring just thinking about it! I have definitely felt like this. I have felt like I had to fit into some sort of a mold in order to be "normal," or in order to achieve "success," or in order to be "happy." Let me (be definitely not the first to) admit that happiness is rarely achieved by trying to fit into societal standards. Do you know what I've realized? We can't put our hope, our trust, our faith in these societal expectations. The only place we can put our hope, our trust, our faith is in God. By coming to know and love our Maker, we will come to know and love ourselves, come to know and love what is good for us (because it is willed by God), and come to find true joy and peace!! Doesn't that sound nice? It's not always an easy path - I'm finding it takes a lot of hard work, and willingness to surrender - but it is so worth it! God loves each of us in a unique way because in all of creation there is only one of YOU! Let Him love YOU.
Still, I can feel at times like I'm battling with the world and what the world seems to desire for me. I want to fit in and be accepted. At the same time, I want to live a life of faith and live into the joy of being a daughter of God. Unfortunately, what the world seems to want of me and what God wants of me can sometimes be opposed to one other. In college, especially my first semester, I went to frat parties and drank because I wanted to be accepted by my peers. It seemed fun, but I was not fulfilled by "going out." Still, I felt this intense pull to party and "have fun" because that was the normal thing to do and the only way to make friends, right? Sometimes, I felt like I was being pulled in two directions - in the way of the world, and in the way of God. I wanted to be able to, as the saying goes, live "in the world, not of the world," but I was often swayed to a life of the world and it always left me feeling empty. One day while I was thinking about the pull of these two opposing desires (interestingly enough, one desire is rooted in the way of Truth, while the other is rooted in a distortion of that same Truth), a distinct image came to my mind. Sometimes this interior struggle leaves me feeling like I'm battling inside myself. While driving and meditating one day (don't worry, I was the passenger in this situation), I thought of this Hellenistic bronze sculpture of a boxer. Much to my amusement, when I googled it on my phone to get the exact title of the piece (The Terme Boxer, or, Boxer of Quirinal), I found out that it was on view at the Met Museum in New York from June to July!! It would leave Italy for the United States for the first time in its history and be on view for one month in the city, and I would have missed it had the image not popped in my mind during my meditation. (Thanks for loving me, Lord! See, He does have a unique way of loving and speaking to each of us. Isn't that awesome??!?) An art history major's dream! You better believe, I booked it to the city for the last weekend it was on view. Here are some pictures (and analysis):
|The Terme boxer, bronze, ca. 330 BC|
This sculpture is a prime example of Hellenistic Greek work. It depicts a boxer who is, obviously, not in the best of shape. He's been beaten pretty badly as is evidenced by the cuts and bruises covering his body; the artist filled these indentations in the bronze with copper to create the appearance of blood actively weeping from his wounds. (Sooo cool!) He has taken a rest from the fight and sits down, wearing only his boxing gloves. He is crouched, his torso bent and his arms placed across his thighs - an indication of either extreme fatigue, or defeat. Spiritually, this is how I feel when I try to live an active faith life whilst wanting to live by societal standards...after a while, I am utterly wiped out and defeated. I can't win this spiritual battle on my own - the pull of temptation/sin is too strong for me to fend off on my own...I need extraordinary graces! And this is the part that gets good. I love the boxer's gaze. He does not look down at the ground or straight in front of him; rather, he has his head turned over his right shoulder in an attentive gaze. We, the viewers, do not know what he is looking at, but we can make guesses. Perhaps his opponent is coming back at him? Maybe the crowd has begun to cheer for him? In my personal application, this gaze is a reminder to me that I am not alone in the fight. The way his head tilts upward - towards the sky- reminds me of God, who loves me beyond measure, and who helps me in the fight. In one sense, Christ has already won the fight for me, but He is also there to hold me up when all I want to do is sit down and give up on choosing the good.
|Can you see his broken nose and the cuts in his face???|
I am left thinking about the end of chapter 7 of St. Paul's Letter to the Romans:
"So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ Our Lord!"
Don't lose hope! Even when it feels like these decisions are pressing in on you and you're going to fall and fall hard, know that you're not going it alone. Rely on the Lord! He wants to help you - He stands at the door of your heart, waiting for you to let Him in - but you must be willing. Let the Lord carry you and let your decisions flow from the knowledge of His supreme love!
Okay, I think I've rambled enough of my thoughts in this post...I think it's time to put this blog about boxes to rest (and for me to head to bed!). In conclusion, do not let yourself be boxed in by societal standards; rather, allow yourself to be a dwelling place (a temple/tabernacle/box) for Christ. Let Him radiate through you! Know that I am praying for you, reader.
In His Grip,