If you could build a box to keep God in, would you build the box? If you could, would you make God more predictable?
It is a ridiculous notion. No one can control God. If He can be contained, predicted, and controlled then He cannot be God.
And I agree in theory, but in practice I’m not so sure. Theologically I adhere to the same belief as you: God is in charge and is preeminent. However, my daily life is filled with conditional beliefs and practices.
If I pray, then God will answer. If I confess, then God will forgive. If I ask, then God will give. If I need healing, then God will respond. If I need comfort, then I will ask and God will make me feel better. If I need my wife to return, a wayward child to act right, or a colleague to get off my back, then I will find a Scripture to claim and hold tenaciously to it as a promise from God.
In other words, if I do the right thing, then God will act like He is supposed to act. He will act like I believe He should.
But let’s be candid.
Is this approach working for you like the folks on TV claim it’s working for them? Have you been healed of your ills? Did your spouse return contritely after her love affair? Did your wayward child straighten up and fly right? Did you get your job back? Is your car running better? Has your bank account increased?
I didn’t think so. Me neither.
No matter how many verses I claim, or how diligent I am to behave as I think I am supposed to behave, God refuses to consistently do what I want Him to. He simply will not be boxed, contained, controlled, or predicted.
If…then. I find these two words are the hammer and nails I use most often to construct a box to contain God.
If I…then God. But He is reticent to be boxed and reluctant to set Himself up as a celestial ATM. Even though there is no apparent shortage of Scripture to document a conditional relationship between God and us, His love is unconditional and His actions are unconditional.
Years ago Dad and I made a day-long road trip together. As we drove, we collected terrapins as they attempted to cross the highway. The floorboard of the car was crawling with turtles; thirty-eight of them to be exact.
I built a pen for them in the back yard out of chicken wire, fed them vegetables from the refrigerator, and provided water for them. The next morning only six of the terrapins remained in my carefully constructed pen. Thirty-two had tunneled to parts unknown throughout the neighborhood.
I resolved myself to better pen building, worked most of the day collecting bricks and rocks, patched the tunnels, and kept a close vigil for any aberrant behavior on the part of my shelled pets. I went in for the evening and returned the next morning to a turtle collection numbering only two.
I was reminded of this boyhood experience a couple of nights ago as I considered why Father God had not answered one of my prayers as I anticipated. I had tagged all the right bases in prayer, offered thoughts I believed consistent with His Word, and expressed perspective I felt mirrored His values. It seemed to me that since I had done these things by the Book, then God would act within the parameters I established.
But not so.
God insists that we walk by faith, not by sight. If our relationship with Him becomes predictable, faith is reduced to a formula. Furthermore, like my turtles, God will not be boxed or penned.
A turtle is going to dig and tunnel and God is going to act like God.
He insists I live by faith, dispense with the contingencies—if..., then—and remember that He is God and I am not.
Here is the rule to remember: Box turtles won’t stay in a pen and God won’t stay in a box.