What is it about cardboard boxes? Children love them, adults recycle them, and all kinds of good things are contained within them. They are, however, designed to be temporary, reusable, for delivery purposes only. They were never meant to become permanent fixtures — they simply do not have the strength to endure the wear and tear of daily life, much to the chagrin of toddlers round the world.
I’ve watched children use their imaginations to create all kinds of interesting habitats out of a simple, large box. My own kids once made a playhouse, complete with windows and window boxes and a front door that opened and closed. And for a while, they loved playing in it and with it.
Over time, however, the box became wobbly and refused to stand up properly, the edges of the windows and door became frayed and bent and the entire house began to list to the left quite badly. The kids gradually lost interest, realizing that the box had served its purpose well and now it was time to move onto something new for entertainment and experimentation.
Boxes are supposed to have a limited shelf life.
It’s a pity we don’t more fully understand that truth in real life, the life we live from day-to-day, the life in which we human creatures find — or even create — our own special boxes and then crawl right inside them, insisting that the view from there is true and good, and in fact, all there is to see.
A box can be a cozy thing, I suppose. A place with clear boundaries, with edges, a place where we feel protected from the winds of fear and uncertainty, or the temptation of the new and different. And there are stages in our development as human beings when boundaries are needed and important. Children and adolescents need to know there are limits and that there are good reasons for those limits. Even adults recognize that there are some boundaries better left in place, for our own good and the good of our neighbor. As believers in the Book and as followers of Jesus, we choose to believe that those boundaries are divinely inspired, gifts to us for our well-being on the road of life.
But boxes? Boxes are never divinely inspired