When it comes to woodworking, one of the most basic lessons every aspiring craftsman must learn is how to build a box. Admittedly, making a box sounds pretty simple, but boxes are a very fundamental element incorporated into many objects we make with wood. Consider the desk you may be sitting at right now with its set of drawers. The desk is a box and each drawer is, too. Every kitchen cabinet, bathroom vanity, jewelry box, and medicine chest is essentially just that—a box.

Building a box may sound pretty simple, and in some ways it is; but building one well can be quite tricky and require the mastery of a number of skills. A box has six sides, and to properly build one the craftsman must calculate the size of each side, taking into account the overlap point where each side touches four other sides. Then he must precisely cut every board, making sure that the board is flat, has parallel sides, and has end cuts that are at perfect 90 degree angles.

As one’s skill level increases, various types of joints between the boards are incorporated, such as rabbit joints, miters, splined miters, and dovetails. Now, I understand that you may not have any idea what kind of joints those are, but suffice to say that they require increasing levels of skill in order to be installed properly, and they can be very difficult to master…especially since there are six boards that must all fit together if you are going to have a properly-made box.

As you can probably tell, recently while building a new cabinet for our home, I began to reflect on boxes; what came to mind was how we all tend to build boxes. Unlike boxes of wood, these are mental boxes, things which limit our thinking and may even prevent us from seeing things as they really are.

One of the problems we encounter with our “mental boxes” is that they can often box us in, resulting in us living in a lie, disconnected from reality and the truth. The Bible is filled with examples of people who built mental boxes that trapped them. Consider the Pharisees, who refused to see the Messiah as he stood right in front of them because the mental boxes they lived in did not allow for a simple rabbi from Galilee to be the Messiah, especially not one who they knew came from Nazareth. As they said, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Their box said “no,” so they failed to see the truth outside of that box.

When making a fine object like a jewelry box, the craftsman attaches all the sides and two end pieces to form a cube. One of the last things he does is to then run it through a saw on four sides to cut it open so that he has a perfectly-matching lid. Like the skilled woodworker, we too must be willing to cut open our mental boxes, challenge the things we are so sure of, to be be mentally flexible. Being willing to see things from different angles, that is, to see things that may be outside of our box, is a big key to growing spiritually…and it allows us to recognize how God may be trying to stretch us by “lifting our lid”.