One of my favorite Berenstain Bears books is the one that tells the story of little bear getting inside a box and his experience in getting loaded onto a truck outside and eventually being turned upside down. When his mother finds little bear at the end of the story he happily announces, “Mama, mama, I was inside a box, outside, upside down!” He sees it all as a great adventure. In some ways it’s our adventure too.
Getting inside a box is the easy part. In fact, most of the time we don’t have to even be invited, we just jump in. Whether those are the boxes we work in or the ones that hold a good share of our thought processes, we become quickly comfortable and fond of those boxes and enjoy the ride at least for awhile. Then one day, life demands that we get “outside” the box. Of course, that means that the old way of looking at things or of solving problems is no longer working and so this metaphor stimulates us to become more creative, more resourceful, maybe even more playful. That’s a good thing. However, when you get outside the box you may see things that are upside down, in fact, they may even be broken. When the world is upside down, it looks funny for a bit, but before all the blood rushes to your head, it’s important to figure out how to get it righted around again.
So what about faith? Can we get inside a box? Outside our comfort zone? Upside down at times? It seems to me we not only can, but we want to. Faith isn’t static and most the time it’s not really comfortable. In fact, if your world isn’t rocking a little like the fisherman who feared they would drowned while Jesus slept peacefully in the storm, then it may be worth discovering what that’s about. I don’t mean that all the seas have to be stormy, but faith shakes things up a little and you end up outside your comfort zone quickly. But, that’s the beautiful, enriching, dynamic thing about faith. It’s touching and turbulent, it’s sweet and saucy, it’s smooth and shaky because it’s a living thing. It’s not a painting on the wall that never changes. It’s not a hurricane that sweeps in and devastates everything in its path and leaves it upside down either, but it’s meant to keep you awake to life. It’s meant to keep you aware that you’re not in this alone and that it’s okay when things get shaky because the calm will follow the storm again.
When my world flips upside down and things get shaky, I’m always glad to look inside my heart, and step back in to the assurance I have in the One who walks with me everywhere. I like knowing I can rest there a little. Oh, I don’t get to stay there, but I can get rested up for the next step so I can go back outside and try again. I like knowing that when I get outside, there will be friends and neighbors and people who are strangers today, but who will be beloved friends tomorrow if I just reach out, if I get outside my comfort zone and let them in. I like knowing that when it all goes upside down and I’m holding on for dear life, that like the frightened sailors in the boat, I can go to Jesus and ask Him to bring me back to the calm place so I can start over again to prepare for the work and the world outside.
Boxes can be protective, providing places to rest and recover, but they aren’t places to grow. Growth calls us to step outside the box, even be willing to turn life upside down if it means we can get to a new place, a more fulfilling place. That’s the ride of a lifetime then, the absolute adventure seeker’s thrill. When we get to the end of the ride, we can jump out and shout with joy and say, “Papa, papa, I was inside, outside, and upside down!”