Box Day

Once upon a time, I went to school to study music composition. I had many good teachers over the years, but the man who had the greatest impact on me was Merrill Ellis. Mr. Ellis  was an unusual, and remarkable man. Every time you saw him he would break out in a big smile, stick out his hand and shake hands. It didn't matter if he had just seen you an hour ago. Every encounter with Mr. Ellis, was an opportunity for him to teach. The conversation usually started with, "Did you write music today?" He was constantly urging his students to stay focused, keep at it, and work consistently throughout the semester to get the music completed. There was a good reason for this.

On the last day of the semester Mr. Ellis would come to school in the morning and put a cardboard box outside his office. Then he would go home for the day. At 5:00PM he came back and picked up the box. If you wanted credit for the semester, you had to get your music into that box before he came back to pick it up. And your music could not be just scribbled out on whatever was at hand. It had to be copied in ink, on vellum, professionally reproduced and bound. Otherwise, it would not be accepted. And there were no excuses. If it wasn't in the box on Box Day, you didn't get credit. Your grade for the semester was based solely on what was in the box. If you didn't get it in the box on Box Day, you might as well have not bothered to show up for the semester.

Now, you may think that sounds harsh and that my teacher was a tyrant or unreasonable man. But those who knew Mr. Ellis would tell you the exact opposite. He was a very kind, gentle, caring teacher who did everything he could to help his students succeed. Box Day was the final lesson for the semester. Mr. Ellis made it clear that the greatest talent in the world was worthless unless you had the discipline to complete the work. Success requires setting a goal and meeting it, in other words. It's also important to understand that we knew about Box Day from the first day of the semester. It wasn't something that Mr. Ellis threw out at the last minute and then sat back to see if we could get it done. Throughout the semester, he continuously encouraged and helped us to succeed. He not only taught us music composition, but also how to prepare a manuscript so that it looked professional. But that was only a small part of what we learned. We also learned discipline, integrity and confidence. By the end of the semester we had all the skills necessary to succeed.

The way Mr. Ellis treated his students also teaches a lesson about how to get people to succeed. So often we encounter people in authority who make demands that we can't meet for the simple reason that they do not give us the necessary resources to succeed. A tyrant is not someone who makes difficult demands on others. A true tyrant is someone who makes demands without sufficient warning and without empowering a person to succeed. In other words, with every obligation must come sufficient information, resources and authority to meet the obligation. Otherwise, making demands on people serves no purpose. If you require someone to do something, you must also give them what is necessary to meet the requirement.

The lesson of Box Day has stayed with me ever since. It applies to many things in life, not just getting school work in on time. Discipline, care, attention to detail, and tenacity to see it through to the end is every bit as important as knowledge and talent. Likewise, if you are in a position of authority over others, you must give them the time, knowledge, resources and delegated authority they need to succeed.

But what does this have to do with the Bible and spiritual stuff?

All things come alike to all: there is one event to the righteous, and to the wicked; to the good and to the clean, and to the unclean; to him that sacrificeth, and to him that sacrificeth not: as is the good, so is the sinner; and he that sweareth, as he that feareth an oath. ... For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten. Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun. ... Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest. (Ecc 9:2-10)

Everyone of us must eventually face a personal "Box Day" - the day when they put your body in a box and stick it in the ground or into a furnace. Get it? Box Day can't be avoided, and once it comes it's too late to fix things and make it right. The life of the Spirit and walking by Faith are not accomplished by thinking real hard about it, or hoping it will get done, or waiting on someone else to do it, or by using excuses. The life of Faith takes discipline, confidence, and above all tenacity. We know the day is coming when this physical existence must come to an end. We have hope of the resurrection and renewal in Jesus, but nevertheless there are things to be done here and now.

Just as Mr. Ellis did for his students, God has provided us the means to accomplish the goals he sets out for us. He provided for our salvation. He provides for our continual renewal. He has promised to meet our physical needs so long as we remain faithful. He has not put an obligation on us that we cannot achieve, or left us ignorant and without understanding.

To those who say that God is some kind of tyrant, or His way is too hard, I say, you've got it all backwards. Consider this:

Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it. If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. (Joh 14:12-18)

Yes, Jesus has work for us, and we best be about doing it. He will pour out His spirit to all those who trust Him, and we can and will accomplish the work that He seeks to do in us.

So, to sum it up, get it done and get it in the box.


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