My girls dug down deep into the collection of empty cigar boxes that belongs to their Big Pop, each searching for the perfect box for their project. Gran Jan and Big Pop are two of my children's most favorite people alive, and on this particular Saturday morning they were turning cigar boxes into "Smile Boxes" with these sweet Grandparents of theirs. We can always count on Gran Jan to come up with a great project for them, and this one might be one of our favorites. They were making boxes that would hold all their special memories...memories that would make them smile. The goal would be that whenever something sad would happen, they would open their smiles box and be reminded of all the happy, joyful memories that had made them smile in times past. They would be reminded of all their blessings, and all the love that had been shown, and then they would be happy again.
It wasn't long after this project was complete, that my Ella suggested they also make a "Sad Box" so that they could write down all the sad stuff too. In her 7 year old brain, it logistically made sense: if you have a "happy box", you also need a "sad box". And though we all laughed, I couldn't help but think that this is actually how so many of us live out our lives. We walk around holding our "sad boxes" and our piece of paper and pen in hand, just waiting for the chance to record something sad and file it away. We protect it's record like a mother protects her child, so that at the necessary and apropos time, we can pull it out as evidence of our unfair life inflictions. We take a "woe is me" approach to our days, and habitually record all the ways we have been wronged by those around us. And in a low moment of self pity, we pull out our "sad boxes" and go through the list of evidence. When we reach the end of our list, we sit and survey the wreckage. Clearly, we can rest our case...we have been wronged and our "sad box" runneth over.
Are you wondering how I have such ability to explain the process so clearly? For so many years, I had great practice at it. I did this daily, and I didn't even know that I was doing it. It was just the way I processed life. I am so grateful to be able to say that my "smiles box" is so much fuller these days than my "sad box". I wish I could say I didn't even own a "sad box"...but sometimes it will rear it's ugly head and beg me to pick up that pen and record a bad circumstance, or even worse, to recall one from the past. That box would love nothing more than to be full of life's wrongs, and for me to sit on the floor and wallow in self pity with all my little scraps of paper scattered around me on the floor. The "sad box" wants me to be a bottom dweller, feasting on nothing more than a plate full of lies.
I was reminded this week about two guys that had every reason in the world to carry around a "sad box". Unfortunately, even if they had wanted to, they would not have been able because their hands were in chains and they had been severely flogged and beaten. Paul and Silas innocently sat deep within the walls of a highly guarded prison cell, after having been publicly beaten without a trial. And though their theoretical "sad box" could have been full, they sat praying and singing hymns to God, and God loves to reward such faith. His ways are many and He rewards each of us differently, but for Paul and Silas, he shook things up by sending a violent earthquake breaking every one's chains. By their faith, they were free, and so are you. You are free to not carry around your "sad box". It is nothing but a heavy linked chain that you are dragging around with you, and friend...may I be so bold as to say that it doesn't look very pretty on you. And you should further be reminded that Jesus is walking right beside you saying "You know you don't have to carry that thing around with you, right? You know I have already broken that chain, right?". Won't you close up your "Sad Box" and start living in the truth that Jesus has already packed full a "Smiles Box" for you...and you don't even have to do anything to earn it. The box is a gift from your Father, that He has freely given His children.