Boxes by the Seaside

heavy boxes - image by skeeze from Pixabay

This parable is based on Week Three of An Ignatian Prayer Adventure.

A man stepped out his front door and stumbled on a box. He recognized it immediately as one of his very bad habits, and he felt discouraged. Not this again.

“I can take care of this,” he thought proudly as he picked up the box, loaded it into his truck, and drove to the sea. Plunk! As the box went off the dock, the man felt relief, expecting never to see that sinful pattern again.

But in the night, he sleepwalked back to the very spot where he’d traveled the day before, and there was his box, floating across the water, right back to him. It was very easy to pull it back onto the shore, and yet, for some reason, it was heavier than when he’d first let it go.

The next morning the man awoke to see that the bad habit was back. He was overcome with confusion. How had this happened? He had worked so hard to dump it. With great effort he lugged the box onto a rented boat and sailed far beyond the dock. He hated himself for his failure of the previous day, and because of that, an additional package was suddenly on board: guilt. It made his little vessel even heavier. The man feared the boat might capsize due to the weight of those boxes, and he struggled against the wind. Several hours passed. He dragged the boxes to the boat’s edge. With new grit, he threw both packages overboard.

By the time evening arrived and the man returned home, he was ashamed to discover a cart tethered to his belt. How hadn’t he noticed it? He was stuck again with those boxes of guilt, the terrible habit, and now self-condemnation as well. Why was this so difficult? His energy was spent, and still he could not succeed in severing the rope that held him captive to the boxes. Despite all his efforts, sin was constantly nagging at his heels.

For days the man repeated his actions, scrupulously attempting to heft the boxes as far as he could from himself. Yet he was trapped again and again. He began to realize that he simply could not get rid of those boxes on his own.

At last he turned to God. “Save me!” he cried. Tears fell, and the man closed his eyes in desperation, begging for the mercy of God. When he opened them, the man found himself at the edge of the sea yet again. This time he wasn’t alone. Jesus was there, looking straight at him.

“Will you let me untie that rope?” Jesus asked tenderly.

The man looked down at the ground, too ashamed to do more than nod.

“Don’t stress anymore,” Jesus said.

The man then looked up and stared incredulously. Jesus held all of the boxes on the tip of a finger, as if they were light as feathers. “Love makes burdens light,” Jesus smiled. In the other hand, Jesus held a hammer, with a signpost tucked under his arm.

The man marveled at how kind and merciful Jesus was. Jesus spoke not a word of condemnation. With a quick flick, Jesus sent those boxes so far out to deep water that the man never heard them splash.

Next, Jesus nailed the signpost into the bedrock. The sign read: “No fishing.”

Jesus said, “Keep your focus always on me. Stay by my side, and keep taking steps to prevent yourself from picking up sinful burdens again. Remember that even if you forget and fail, I will forgive and help again.”

Image by skeeze from Pixabay.

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Loretta Pehanich
Loretta Pehanich is a Catholic freelance writer and the author of 2022: A Book of Grace-Filled Days, Women in Conversation: Stand Up!, and Fleeting Moments: Praying When You Are Too Busy. A spiritual director since 2012, Loretta is trained in giving the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. Her involvement in ministry and parish life includes 20 years in small faith-sharing groups and Christian Life Community. Loretta gives retreats and presentations on prayer and women’s spirituality and is commissioned as an extraordinary minister of the Eucharist. She and her husband Steve have four children and 10 grandchildren.

8 COMMENTS

  1. Wow, I am really moved by this story. This story brings to light how much I make my bad habits heavier with just relying on myself, and how easily I slip into guilt and condemnation. Jesus is so wise to tell us – that he has different plans for us and to stay focused on the light and let him help.

  2. Very vivid imagery. Thank you for the “mental picture” and the clear message of Jesus’ love and forgiveness at the end.

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