Nanny-McPhee and the Boxes

Alice: What are you doing?

Nanny-McPhee: Just some necessary work. Cleaning by making a mess.

Alice: Cleaning by making a mess? What does that mean?

Nanny McPhee: Haven't you ever cleaned? Don't you know that at first everything starts looking much worse than before? If you're serious about cleaning. There's all kinds of furniture to move and closets to empty. Stuff to drag out into the open. Mid-floor. Sometimes you even have to get rid of the entire carpet. Just replace the whole thing. Good old fashioned cleaning involves a lot of mess making.

Alice: I see... But, what are you trying to clean anyway? And -- hate to bring this up, but -- don't you belong in an entirely different fairytale?

Nanny McPhee: THAT, is exactly what I came to clean. Those boxes and cobwebs in your head. This place is just a breeding ground for them. Who said that I don't belong here? Just because someone wrote me into a different story first? Let me get rid of that mental box right away, that'll be my first one. See? There it goes. Gone! 

Alice: Alright..I get your point. You're here now, so I guess...

Nanny McPhee: It's fine!

Alice: So what else do you want to clean?

Nanny McPhee: Those cobwebs.

Alice: Where?

Nanny McPhee: On that Bible.

Alice: The Bible?

Nanny-McPhee: Yes! Isn't that what you want to do too? Why you came? To seek God, and to unveil the secrets buried in that book that's hidden underneath those cobwebs?

Alice: Oh. Well, of course, I do want that. But why are those cobwebs on the Bible?

Nanny-McPhee: Where do cobwebs form? On things that sit for a long time untouched. Because no one feels the need to pick them up.

Alice: Why don't people want to pick it up?

Nanny-McPhee: Because of the boxes. The mental boxes. There are so many of them. Haven't you noticed that you can barely walk around here? This place is filled with them. Can't you see? 

Alice: Umm...

Nanny-McPhee: For example. Let's look at that box right there before you. You were just standing inside of it a few seconds ago. Check the label. What does it say?

Alice: "Tradition."

Nanny-McPhee: Right. Tradition says: "This is how things have always been done, and therefore things can never be done differently." 

Alice: Right...

Nanny-McPhee: Like when you suggested that I'm in the wrong fairytale. Weren't you just slightly set in your ways? Suffering from a case of brain lock? Stuck inside a box of tradition?

Alice: I guess.

Nanny-McPhee: And how do you feel now that I got rid of it for you? Don't you just love your new found freedom? Isn't it so much easier to breathe?

Alice: Maybe. Well, yes, actually! Feels good to be whimsically wide open to everything.

Nanny-McPhee: Well alrighty then. Now see. The same problem exists with the Bible. It's been sitting inside the box of tradition for too long. This box of tradition is such a nuisance. It dictates terrible things. It says that people can only read and talk about Bible scriptures in a certain way, a certain tone, following a certain religious, manmade formula, presented from a certain religious angle. You know what?

Alice: What?

Nanny-McPhee: People hate it. Deep down, instinctively, they hate it. If they're honest with themselves. You know why?

Alice: Why?

Nanny-McPhee: Because that way is DEAD. Chewed up and spit out. That old formula is like an old piece of gum on the table that someone already sucked the juices from. It was good once, it used to be tasty, but now. Who wants and old piece of gum? That's how a lot of people feel about the Bible nowadays. Like yesterday's news. Even if they try to study it according to that TRADITION and create some type of excitement, deep down something feels off. Something's missing. Because the newness, the life is gone.

Alice: You mean to say that the Holy Spirit is missing from the old way?

Nanny-McPhee: I do. You catch on quickly. As soon as the Bible is placed inside the box of Tradition the Holy Spirit checks out. And now, sadly, the Bible sits inside that box in many people's minds. And the box keeps rotating the scriptures the same old way, over and over, allowing nothing new in. It has become a meaningless buzz in peoples' ears that no one even hears anymore. Just like the sound of crickets outside in the summer night that you've gotten used to. Or the ticking of the kitchen clock on the wall. You don't hear it. No impact. People are becoming deaf to the message. They're tired. What a shame.

Alice: Yeah, it's too bad. The Bible is such a treasure chest. People don't know. There are so many discoveries to be made. It's sad that people can't see it.

Nanny-McPhee: They can't see it, because the boxes block their vision from the content. That's what boxes do. They hide things and store them away. And that's why I'm here. To get rid of the boxes. All of them if I can.

Alice: There are other boxes too? But why can't I see them?

Nanny-McPhee: You can't see them, because they're invisible. And they will remain invisible until someone makes them visible for you.

The Invisible Boxes

Alice: Tell me more about those boxes.

Nanny-McPhee: Invisible boxes keep people's hearts captive. Their minds, their emotions. They allow them very little room to move. When a person sits inside an invisible box, they're not free. Their thoughts are not free, their spirits are not free. To grow. Didn't Jesus come to set the captives free? Oh He's such a master cleaner! Taught me all my tricks, you know. Unfortunately the boxes are still here. Temporarily of course, but still. It's an ongoing cleaning project that started a long time ago. All part of God's plan, a work in progress. It'll get there, in due time, don't you worry. And I'm here to help.

Alice: I'm glad for that. Sounds like we really need those boxes gone.

Nanny-McPhee: Yes we do. When a person sits inside an invisible box they can never be free. They can barely breathe, because they're always hitting that box wall. Sooner or later. And the box wall says: "This is how far you can go, but no further." There are so many boxes with different labels on them. And the names on the labels tell you what the boxes do.

Alice: Can you give me an example?

Nanny-McPhee: Let's see. Okay. Let's examine these two boxes sitting here side by side, called, "Christian," and "Religion." They're related. I guess you could call them cousins.

Alice: Christian?!

Nanny-McPhee: Yep. This box is a stereotypical idea of what a Christian is supposed to be like. What a Christian looks like. How a Christian thinks. And how a Christian behaves. What a Christian feels! This box exists both in the minds of Christians and non-Christians alike. It has a murderous effect on both. 

Alice: Why?

Nanny-McPhee: Because it messes with their relationship with God. Monumentally.

Alice: How?

Nanny-McPhee: For the Christian: It dictates who they can be if they want to be a true Christian. If they really love God the way they say they do. It'll tell them what they can say, think and feel. How they should talk and behave. What type of music they should listen to. What they should wear. What political party they should belong to. Or not! All depending on what their congregation says. They all say something a little different.

Alice: I know what you're talking about. I've felt it too -- that group pressure.

Nanny-McPhee: And it will frown on anything that doesn't resemble that image. Think about this box as a stiff suit that Christians place on their bodies, only an invisible one. A suit that's way too tight, and not really their style. Christians will place these suits on them, they will force them on, because all their Christian friends are wearing them too, so why shouldn't they? And since they really believe that this suit is their ticket to Heaven, and the only way God will accept them, thanks to what the other box, "Religion," has taught them, they'll keep on squeezing themselves into this suit. Oh, this suit puts so much pressure on people. They can barely breathe.

Alice: Sounds like it. But how does the box mess with a non-Christian's relationship with God?

Nanny-McPhee: The non-Christian looks at the Christian walking around in a suit too tight and says, "There's no way I'll ever put that suit on. I'm staying a way from THAT God."

Alice: Oh no...

Nanny-McPhee: Do you think that Christians don't know anything about God? Of course they do. Christians have a lot to teach non-Christians. But the suit, the box must go. Because it makes it so much harder for people to see the reality of God. It will always hold them back, box them in, and prevent their flight. It's a burden, a prison that Christians lock themselves and others in. A mask. A phantom of the real thing, the real human being. It forces people to become that phantom. Someone, who looks like a true person, but isn't.

Alice: I think I've seen it. No. I know I've seen that phantom!

Nanny-McPhee: When people buy into this Christian stereotype and become what the box asks of them, it locks them in so tightly that they'll have trouble ever getting out. People should be warned, because the box is lying to them. It tells people: "You can't be yourself with God. You must behave." 

Alice: Behave how exactly?

Nanny-McPhee: Well, in lots of ways. Take worship time in churches for example. You walk into a church service, and depending on the denomination the group will dictate to you what that very personal, intimate moment and closeness to God should look like for youDepart from that behavior, and you'll immediately know that you did something wrong. Oh yes. You'll feel that silent disapproval. Sure they'll claim that you're free to worship God however you like. But it's not true. The scope is very limited. It's like walking into an All-You-Can-Eat restaurant that promises to serve something for everyone. But when you take a closer look: It's just spaghetti, spanish rice, angel hair pasta, noodles, chicken alfredo, fried rice, pasta pomodoro and Chow mein. Nothing but rice and pasta dishes.

What I mean is this: You walk into a church service and see all these people with their arms up in the air and eyes closed, singing along with the worship song. That's all fine, no problem there. IF that's really their authentic expression of how they feel...Which it can be!

But what happens if you DON'T feel like doing that? Or if -- lo and behold -- you don't happen to particularly care for the music? Just not your taste. Are you really allowed to express it? Of course not. And are you really allowed to worship in that space however you want? Of course not. There are just a few worship styles available for you. And you better pick from those. Remember; rice and pasta. It doesn't matter how hip and progressive the church is. How different they claim to be. Your job is to look like them. That's the way to fit in. To worship and look like everyone else, or sit down on the chair and be quiet. Or, go outside. Whatever you do, JUST DON'T LOOK INSIDE and express what is in there IF IT DOESN'T SUPPORT THE BEHAVIOR CODE OF THE PLACE.

Because there's a good chance that what you find inside of you will NOT FIT the common behavior code. That is, if you're in touch with God, who lives inside of you. 

"The Right Kind of Behavior" Vs. "Behavior That's Right"

Alice: Nanny McPhee, I just thought of something. Aren't you the one who usually teaches people, mainly misbehaving children, how to behave?

Nanny McPhee: Well yes. I'm a behaviorist. A nanny and a cleaning lady. I specialize in children and toilets. In no particular order. I go where no man wants to go, dive in, and get the job done. A true service. Teaching children how to behave, especially when they think they don't need me. 

Alice: Then...isn't it funny, that in this case you're basically trying to teach Christians NOT to behave?

Nanny McPhee: Why is that funny? Is not behaving - not a behavior, also?

Alice: True...

Nanny McPhee: The behavior that I teach is behavior that's right. That's real. To you. Not an artificial behavior code of "the right kind of behavior." Not a suit that puts your heart in a prison. I teach behavior that takes your heart out of the prison. Believe me, there are times when misbehavior is the only kind of behavior that's right. That fixes you right up. Because the behavior that's right comes from the inside and is real and authentic. Your true response to your life situation. This "right kind of behavior" on the other hand? That harmful behavior code? It's dictated from the outside in and is based on other people's limited views of what they think is right for you. When people try to copy that artificial behavior code, they're not being themselves. So then, when they're trying to build a relationship with God, they're doing it from behind a mask. How genuine and deep do you think that that relationship will be? Ask yourself, how deep can any relationship be if one party is pretending to be someone that they're not?

And the worst part: When you really internalize the "right kind of behavior," that false behavior code, it will be there permanently. Even when you're ALONE, just by yourself, in your own thoughts, talking to God. What a miserable existence when you can't be yourself even in you're own company!

Can you see how the box messes with the Christian's relationship with God?

Alice: I think I can.

Nanny McPhee: All Christian Denominations have their own versions of this box. Protestant, Catholic, Lutheran, Episcopal, Methodist, Charismatic, Pentecostal, Non-denominational...All of them. It may look a little different from denomination to denomination, because this box comes in many colors and shapes. But it's there. Trying to dictate to people how to behave. Trying to squeeze people's hearts into tiny boxes.

Alice: But why do people fall for it? What makes the box so powerful?

Nanny McPhee: FEAR! The power of the box is based on people's fear. Mostly social fear. That's how it controls them.

Alice: And where does that fear come from?

Nanny McPhee: THAT has everything to do with that other box, "Religion". But I'll talk about that box another day.

Alice: Ok. Nanny McPhee?

Nanny McPhee: Yes?

Alice: Sometimes you teach misbehaving children to behave and sometimes you teach Christians...

Nanny McPhee: Children.

Alice: I'm sorry?

Nanny McPhee: Christians are children. They're all children to me.

Alice: Okay, sometimes you teach misbehaving children to behave and sometimes behaving children to misbehave. How do you know what's needed? It's all very confusing.

Nanny McPhee: That's easy. It all depends on what the doctor orders.

Alice: The doctor?

Nanny McPhee: God. The Healer. Healing is the point, you see. That's what it's all about. Aligning the heart with the truth. The doctor will prescribe misbehavior as the treatment for some children and good behavior for others. It all depends on the nature of the disease. The same medicine does not have the same effect on everyone, because the disease, the box, varies from person to person. Understand?

Alice: I think I do. Yes, I think I get it now.

Nanny McPhee: Good. Boxes! What nuisances. But what wonderful things they store. Like people and ideas. Once you know that they're there, hiding. I wish they'd all came out. Which reminds me. Cat in the Hat?

The Cat in the Hat: Yes?

Alice: You're here too?

Nanny McPhee: Are we back at this? Didn't we already go over this?

Alice: Oops.

Nanny McPhee: Cat in the Hat. Do you remember that Swedish children's nursery rhyme about that guy who was sleeping inside of a box? Just sleeping all day long?

The Cat in the Hat: You mean "Man in the Box?"

Nanny McPhee: That's the one. Will you translate?

The Cat in the Hat: Love to.

"Man in the box. Man in the box. What are you doing? Sleeping? Are you making coffee? Brushing your shoes? Man in the box! Come out! Hurray!"

Nanny McPhee: Hurray indeed.

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