Do you ever imagine that your life is settled into nice, neat boxes? Here is my work box. Here is my family box. Here is my volunteer box. Here is my exercise box. And it seems the point is to keep all those boxes balanced, healthy, and safe. I faithfully do my Examen to find where God is present in each box as I go through my day. And just when I think I have life almost balanced and right where everything needs to be, that’s when the desolation of control sets in. The more I have life “figured out” according to my plan, ironically, the more desolation I seem to feel. My heart questions, “Is this it? I have all my boxes checked. Why am I still feeling empty?”
That emptiness tells me that no matter how good it feels to be secure and comfortable with my boxes, with my worldview and my way of doing things, God is outside the box. It is almost as if God were saying, “Oh, you think you have found Me? Try again. Now I’m over here!” with a Voice echoing from the far side of the warehouse of life.
Most likely the Voice is calling to me from the last place I’d like to look—the place I was positive I would never go. Maybe it is that group of people I had completely written off. Maybe it is in giving up something I thought I couldn’t live without. Maybe it is going places I have never been before. No matter how challenging it is, though, to move outside the comfort zone of my usual boxes, I must. It’s the only way to end the empty desolation of staying in the same controlled boxes all our lives. It is the only way really to find God, or at least, get a few steps closer.
Rather than staying in the safe box of Paris, St. Ignatius Loyola sent his companions all over the world. Even to this day the Jesuits are pushed to go to the margins of society and life. We’d like to think it is because those on the margins need us, so we are willing to sacrifice our comfort zones to reach out and serve them. Such heroics are good for the ego (and make great social media posts). What a shocker it is then to find that all those places we thought we had known God before pale in comparison to how we experience God outside the box. Ignatius knew very clearly that we go to the margins, outside of our boxes, not as much so the people we encounter will know God in us, but so we can find God through them.
What boxes do you need to get out of to get a little closer to that Voice calling out to you?
Dear Lisa, your article brought many questions to my mind. At 57,I am still wondering what purpose God has for me. I have been in many boxes-Nursing,Instructor,Director,and have worked corporately. All very nice,neat, and organized boxes. All through this I have sought God in the likely places-also nice,neat boxes. Now I am working the Ignatian Adventure and wondering if I will be able to go and live outside the box? An exciting and scary thought all at the same time.
Thank you Lisa. Your article of the boxes could be rewritten into the parable of the boxes or the tale of the boxes with characters and a plot addapted to a target audience: adults, children… Sure your intelligent message would be widely understood by anyone who needs to be aware of the existence of the divine providence.
You sound like a writer! Go for it! I bet you would telll it better than anyone!
Thank you, Ms. Kelly. Your thoughts have encouraged me in my discernment of God’s next journey for me. Blessings to you and your family.
Thank you, Nancy! No doubt your next journey will be beyond anything you could have imagined!