A box is still a box even with glitter on it- even if you string LED lights all around it; it’s still a box. I’ve noticed a lot of people decorating their boxes, lately. Ones who claim to have climbed out of the box- those who have deconstructed- some time earlier. There are those who climb out of a medium parcel-sized box, and trade it in for a refrigerator box. Then, there are others who opt for a smaller box than before, but they decorate it with glitter.
An Incomplete Metamorphosis
Last summer, we collected Monarch larvae. We searched the milkweed blossoms along our corn fields and collected dozens at a time. We would bring them back to our house and place them in a terrarium with a screen over it. Over several weeks, we watched teeny-tiny larvae gorge themselves on milkweed leaves that we would give to them every day.
One by one, the plump caterpillars would find a place on a stick, attach themselves from the back-end, and hang upside down- sometimes for an entire day- before quickly turning themselves inside out. It was extraordinary to watch.
The first chrysalis turned from a bold, light green with a sparkling golden rim that encapsulated the caterpillar. There, it would hang for about a week. Once it turned from green to black, it would begin to dry out ad the paper-like chrysalis lightened in color.
Within days, a fully formed butterfly would begin to break free of its wrapping and learn to flap its wings. A transformation that happens before our eyes that seems effortless.
Sadly, however, we had more incomplete metamorphoses than completed processes.
Butterflies and Boxes
An incomplete metamorphosis for a caterpillar ultimately means death, an incomplete metamorphosis for a human being transitioning from a deconstruction, or a deep transformation, or a stripping away of fundamental beliefs; ultimately means trading in boxes. You’ve only traded one label in for another.
Although I wouldn’t suggest that for us, a metamorphosis is every fully complete in this realm; I surmise that at some point, we actively choose to free ourselves from the chrysalis that contains us. The goal is to leave the box behind, not decorate it. Boxes, after all, do not spark joy.
When a butterfly breaks free of its chrysalis, she only stays until her wings are dry. As soon as she can handle the weight of her wings, she moves to fly. She wants to be free of her confinement.
When I first broke free from my box, I kicked it down the gravel and didn’t want it back. But, I’ll admit, there are times I came across a new box and felt as though it was made for me and I did get in a few more times. So, at some point during our metamorphosis, after we break out of the box, our wings grow weary and we put ourselves right back in one.
Strip It Down
Stripping down of all of the layers we have been adding over the years is an enduring process. There are so many layers we are content with. We’ve become hoarders of affiliations- category collectors; donning masks and robes that cover up who we really are. When we head into a deeper transformation- when we step out of that box- we are supposed to find comfort in our nakedness. “For there were naked and unashamed”. (Gen. 2:25)
Out-of-the-box thinking sets us free. It removes the limitations of conformist and dogmatic thinking so that we can explore deeper meaning through our own observations and lived experiences; so that we can teach ourselves how to think critically, even if it confuses us.
It provides a space in that we can take comfort in our confusions. It is a state of confusion that, for the founder of deconstruction, Jacques Derrida, was a sign of maturity; that the state of confusion and doubt is something one ought to be proud of.
Only once we are free from our box, is that state of confusion able to go through the necessary processing. It can be done without judgment and condemnation from label affiliates. Being out of the box actually provides you with the safest space possible for exploring your thoughts!
Categories are Necessary
I would be remiss to concede to the need for categories. Our brains operate in such a way that in order to discern, we have to label and group- both objectively and subjectively. There is indeed a dualism of the mind that functions in a way that helps us survive. Right from wrong, good from bad, hot from cold, etc.
So, for contextual purposes, yes, we need to attach particular labels to ourselves otherwise we would struggle to engage in meaningful conversations. Also, we cannot deny culture as a natural influence on our every day lives. These labels, however, do not define who we truly are. Let us remember to not be seduced by status. We are not our labels.
What Sets Us Apart
When we get into the habit of identifying ourselves as the group affiliations we belong to; we become rigid and unwilling to listen or consider other perspectives and we refuse to remove the colored lenses we purposefully place over our scope.
With that, we find more creative ways to justify othering, in a negative way. When we utilize these methods of labeling, and then attach such methods to our beliefs, we miss the point of harmony and unity. We focus more on what sets us apart rather than focusing on what makes us the same.
If there is any truth behind the words that Paul wrote to Galatia, that we “are all one in Christ Jesus”, then shouldn’t followers of Christ, especially, focus more so on what unites us rather than what sets us apart? What sets us apart ends up harming us- because there is only us.
We Don’t Always Know
We aren’t always aware that we are putting ourselves back in the box. But, if upon confrontation or consultation (or even intervention) we are willing to correct ourselves and be more mindful to not do it again; then we are all the better. Don’t we want someone to help us stay out of the box?
So, while many will say “I can’t be put in a box” , they end up putting themselves back into a box. Friends, if you notice this trend, especially while you are refraining from such box-thinking; turn to your neighbor and remind them the if the truth will set us free, that means it will free us from the box. You don’t need glitter- you already sparkle.
Danielle Kingstrom is an author, podcaster, and home-school teacher. She cohosts the podcast: Book Ish- The Canon Continues. She lives in Minnesota, with her husband Cory, and their five children. You can read more about the author here.