Thinking Outside the Box

I’ve always considered my ability to think outside the box as one of my greatest strengths.  However, Andra and I had a moment recently that made me stop and examine if that is actually true.

Andra was in the midst of replacing her dishwasher and refrigerator, which were going to be delivered in giant, appliance-sized boxes. The kind of boxes that make little kids dream of forts and spaceships. I think 95% of educators would agree with us that it would be a complete waste to throw away such an open-ended gift as an empty refrigerator box! Since we were in the middle of preparing for an upcoming presentation for a group of teachers which included a story about a little-old-lady with a room full of labeled boxes, we looked at the boxes as a divine gift.  We could fancy the boxes up a bit and use them as part of the decorations. In our minds, it sounded simple enough, so the appliances were delivered and the boxes stored in the garage just waiting for us to add a quick creative touch. When we pulled the boxes out a couple of weeks later, however, we had a moment of pause as we re-evaluated these “gifts”. They were heavy and awkward. They were covered with all sorts of red print logos and instructions. They were dented and scarred. Not exactly the cute decoration material we had envisioned. Not ones to give up easily, we started thinking of different ways to adapt the plan and decided we could cover them with butcher paper to make them look like plain boxes then add some labels in fancy scripted lettering. As we started stumbling about with these boxes and wrestling them from the garage to the driveway, our small craft project was turning into a major time commitment which was going to be much more comfortable to tackle inside with the air conditioner, so we determined we would need to cut the boxes to lay flat in order to get them in the house. We slid the box cutter length-wise down one edge of the dishwasher box and as soon as we stretched the box out straight, we realized we had been looking at the boxes all wrong.  The inside of the box was perfect! Not one dent. Not one loading instruction. We had spent all this time trying to figure out how to fix the outside of the box to make it what we wanted it to be and all along the inside of the box was a perfect canvas.

That was the moment of pause and the opportunity to learn a lesson. How often do we take the people that cross our paths at face value? How often do we look at what is written on the outside of someone’s box and accept that as all we have to work with? What treasure could be on the inside if only we were willing to look at someone from a different perspective? We’ve all preached a lesson or two about not judging a book by its cover, but I guess sometimes it takes a wrestling match with a refrigerator box to move from not judging that which is on the outside to truly appreciating that which waits on the inside. It was a great reminder to ask one more question, listen with an open mind, and appreciate what is unique.  After all, each of us is a little like those boxes--dented, scarred, and labeled--but God loves us anyway and sees us as perfect canvases on which he paints the most amazing love story.

Aletha ScheckComment