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I have a suggestion for us-yes, you and me-one that will help us live a freer and lighter life and that just might make our Maker smile.

 Let’s let God out of the box.

You know… that “box” where we have placed him-maybe even CRAMMED-His Divine Self all our lives or maybe just recently.

That box might be a rigid set of rules we think He’s about. Maybe we have Him in a Catholic box or a Baptist box or a Pentecostal box. We see other Christians whose way of worship isn’t like ours. Some of their teachings and beliefs may differ a bit from what we’ve been taught and believe. We may think that just because a person can’t give us a “magic” date of conversion then she isn’t a Christian or if she he isn’t running around waving her Bible and shouting “Repent!” then she’s no believer.  She isn’t acting like our God in the Box.

What’s wrong with her?

Nothing.

It’s us. And we need to release our God from the box in which we’ve placed Him.

Please read this slowly. God is not a

Baptist
Methodist
Catholic
Democrat
Republican
Independent
African-American
Caucasian
Hispanic
NRA Member
Women’s March Participant
Senator

I hope I’ve made my point.

In my own life and Christian faith, I have felt God’s presence and love and calling since I was a child, but I pushed Him aside many times. Growing up in a small town in the 60s and 70s where church attendance was the norm (my parents used to talk every Sunday about who wasn’t at church that day), I had God in a box-I realize that now- and kept Him there to a degree until several years ago.

He was in my “Catholics are weird” box. I have now been Catholic for over 22 years, although I am questioning alot right now regarding the church and myself. He was in my “Oh, my gosh, that person is gay” box. I now have many gay friends, and many of them love and serve God. I had Him in that “Here’s the way this vast universe came to be” box, but I now have no problems with scripture and science. What’s important to me is “In the beginning God created…” Period. I don’t get into debates about this; I just live in faith.

Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love God with all your heart, mind, and strength. The second?

To love our neighbor as we love ourselves. Self-love, not judging others, and being Christ to all we meet… without being preachy. Just be Christ.

So how do we fully LOVE and ACCEPT and UNDERSTAND and CULTIVATE Christian unity?

Here are 5 ways to release God-really, to release us– from the box. 

And let’s be real: We can have a relationship with Him that is the most wonderful thing in the world, and yet we cannot begin to comprehend Him… He’s so much larger than all our brilliant but small minds can fathom. He’s God.

Try at least 2 of these 5 ways of opening your heart and mind to let God out of the box:

  1. Have an open and understanding conversation with a friend of a different denomination or a Christian who chooses not to attend church. Get to know each other’s beliefs and styles of worship.You might even come into a better understanding and appreciation of your own beliefs through heartfelt conversation. I’ve been able to dispel a lot of myths about my Catholic faith to friends who don’t really know my church or who had a bad experience before the Church underwent a revival of sorts. (I almost guarantee that some who have been in Bible studies with me or in one of my retreats will read this and say, “What?! You are Catholic?!, “because I don’t act or speak like their idea of a Catholic.) I love hearing about others’ beliefs, which really aren’t much different from mine. Lightbulb moment! (which is kind of the point)
  2. Attend worship services or Bible studies at other churches. I love worship AND Bible study, and I enjoy experiencing them at other churches. It’s okay not to attend your own church sometimes. Enjoy other styles of worship, and see how God speaks to you in that service. I’ve worshipped in small African-American churches in rural areas, in a pentecostal church on an island 16 miles from the mainland, and in megachurches with coffee houses. And it’s all good, and God has revealed Himself in all those places among those who love Him.
  3. Be still, and know that God is God. The psalmist wrote, “Be still and know that I am God.” Take a walk in the woods. Sit on a beach. Sit in the middle of a shopping mall. Sit in your yard. Just BE. God is there. He’s with you.
  4. Read about other faiths. Go to the library or a bookstore or Amazon, and get a book that provides a readable and brief (and unbiased) overview of other Christian denominations. Go a step further, and read about non-Christian faiths. You’ll learn something. One of my favorite books is the bestselling The Faith Club, a beautiful dialogue of understanding and respect among three women-Christian, Muslim, and Jewish- who met at their children’s school bus stop.
  5. Go outside one dark, starry evening, and look up at the sky. This is a vast universe where new planets and galaxies are being discovered all the time. Consider who puts all this into motion… He’s much too big to place in a box.

I get why so many are turned off by organized religion and church itself.

But remember: A church is not a building. THE church is the body of believers, and I know many Christ loving and good folks who choose to not attend church, but worship God in other ways. I have a need to be a part of a church community, but I respect my friends who don’t.

I highly recommend any book by Barbara Brown Taylor (a seminary educated and ordained minister) and Rachel Held Evans. They are women of faith who will make you think.

There’s a word that refers to developing a better understanding of and closer relationships among various Christian faiths. That word is ecumenism.

Let’s be an ecumenical people. Let’s let God out of the box, and let’s let ourselves out of the box. Maybe then we can really start to live in His love, and in doing so, make this world a better place.

 

Amy Walton is a certified life coach and Christian life coach who ponders and talks to God a lot. If she’s not coaching, writing, or speaking, she’s probably in the gym, in the woods, or having heartfelt conversation with friends. She knows how to laugh at herself, too… which is often. Connect with her at http://www.amywaltoncoaching.com