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Dave Brisbin

Outside the Box

Ever heard of the nine dots puzzle? Nine dots arranged in a square, three equal rows of three, like tic tac toe. Challenge is to connect all dots using only four straight lines and without lifting pen off paper or retracing any lines. After snapping a couple of pencils and throwing up your hands, you find the solution looks like an arrowhead with its head on a corner and wings extending beyond the box of dots. We naturally assume the solution must be contained inside the box. There is no solution inside the box.

Puzzle imitating life.

We naturally assume every challenge we face must be solved inside the box—the scope of our life experience—because we can’t conceive of anything outside our box. You cannot speak of ocean to a well-frog, the creature of a narrower sphere, the philosopher said. As with the frog, the sneakiest part is: we don’t even know we have a box. It’s just life. Our lives. The laws of society, religion, physics, the dynamics of our family of origin, our traumas and training…all we know and have decided to believe, forms the walls of our box.

I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to say that everything Jesus does in the gospels is creating leverage to get us outside our box. The good news he’s telling of a degreeless and indiscriminant love can never be found inside our box. By definition, it violates any box we can imagine. Thoughts, words, logic, experience we’d use to try to understand and express it, were born in our box and can only describe its walls, never something outside.

You must be born again; sell all you possess; you can’t see the wind or know where it goes; you must hate your father and mother, children, even your own life; pick up your cross daily; drop your nets at the shore, come and see, follow me.

Jesus leaves nothing on the table in a single-minded drive to break us out of the prison of our box. Boxes limit and contain. That’s their functional beauty. But the love and life Jesus is living can’t be contained and remain themselves. Only when we’re willing to get out of control, out of our minds, will the first glimpse of vast ocean come into view. Outside the box.


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