A while back, I settled into my overstuffed chair with TV dinner and milk in hand, to watch a movie on the tube. The blurb was innocent enough so I clicked on the appropriate channel, squirming to get comfortable.
The title I’d chosen was The Skeleton Key starring Kate Hudson, Gena Rowland, Peter Starsgaard, and John Hurt. The storyline was about a young woman who, disenfranchised by a common apathy toward patients at a hospice ward, leaves to take a position as a caretaker at a private residence in the Louisiana Bayou, which is where the bulk of the story takes place. My story, however, takes place in the hospice ward in the opening scenes of the movie.
The opening scene begins with Kate Hudson sitting at the bedside of an older male patient reading Treasure Island to him. One minute his eyes are open. . .the next minute, his eyes are closed. She closes its pages, stands, and puts the book on the chair. She reaches over and checks his vitals. Mr. Talcott had expired. As she stands there looking down at him compassionately with a sorrowful look, another nurse goes by and stops at the open door.
“Mr. Talcott’s gone,” Kate says, shaking her head.
The next scene Kate is walking outside the building with a little brown cardboard box in her arms. A label identifies the box as belonging to Mr. Talcott who had just passed away. Just a few feet away from the back door sits a top-loaded trash container. She lifts the lid and prepares to throw away the box, but first she looks inside the container.
Inside we see three other similar sized boxes lying in the trash bin, each with its own label, identifying the owner of a previously diseased person’s possessions. From that scene and for another twenty minutes further into the movie, I do not remember anything that happened; I just sat there in my recliner staring through the TV, with tears in my eyes.
I couldn’t stop thinking about that old man’s box. It wasn’t that I did not have empathy to the other people that the boxes represented in the trash bin, but because of the movie, I attached myself to this man’s particular plight, which was probably the author’s intent. I thought to myself, “the sum total of this man’s whole life was able to fit inside of a small box that couldn’t have been any larger than 14″X20″X12″ deep.” That, by itself, gave me pause.
Everything in that box was the only proof that he even existed. To make things worse, there were no family members there at his side when he crossed over to the other side, just a nurse who cared enough to perform a simple act of kindness by reading to him as he slipped away.
I knew that this was just a movie but I couldn’t help thinking about what possible keepsakes were among the contents of his box: perhaps some pictures or a few personal letters, a cross at the end of a chain, or perhaps a woman’s wedding band. Everything that was important to him was the only things in the box. Now it sat in a trash bin in an alley.
I felt that the trash bin was a perfect representation of the refiner’s fire that will consume all hay, grass, and straw on that day. Everything that is not of Jesus and of the Spirit will burn in that fire. We will lose it. Although faith without works is dead (James 2:20), our works will be burned up. (How do we impress a God who has created the universe?)
Our brown cardboard box could represent what we do with our lives. What will we have to show for the years that the Lord allotted us to live? Life is a gift from God. What we do with that life, is a gift back to Him. What will the angel find in our little brown cardboard box before he throws it into the trash container of the refiner’s fire? What will survive the fire?
In that day of the Lord, the Good News Bible says that, “If what a man built on the foundation survives the fire, he will receive a reward. But if any man’s work is burnt up, then he will lose it; but he himself will be saved, as if he had escaped the fire.” (1 Corinthians 3:14, 15)
That scene at the trash bin had a huge impact on my spiritual life. I thought, Lord, what will be the sum total of my spiritual life when you send your angel to collect my spirit? What keepsakes will I leave for you? What will remain in my brown cardboard box after the fire?
I flat asked the Lord, “With what do I fill up my little brown cardboard box? What in my life is hay and stubble that the fire will burn up when you come for your Bride?” (1 Corinthians 3;12-15)
The Lord gave Scriptures to my spirit, hesitating three to four seconds between them evidently giving each one its own emphasis. He said, “son, ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart. . .and with all thy soul. . .and with all thy strength. . .and with all thy mind. . .and thy neighbour as thyself.’” (Luke 10:27)
“Obey my commandments for it is profitable for you. (Exodus 20:2-17)
“Forgive one another as I have forgiven you; (Mark 11:25)
The Lord continued, “. . .whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”
“Hold firm to the fruit of the spirit, which are love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. (Galatians 5:22, 23)
“Be ye holy; for I am holy.“(1 Peter 1:16)
“Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” (Mark 16:15)
“These are gold, silver, and stones, or true and solid doctrine. Wood, hay, and stubble are things of man’s invention; only the substantial and vital truths of Christ will make it through the refiner’s fire.” (1 Corinthians 3:11, 12)
He was not quite finished yet and led me to a Scripture in His Word that put everything into perspective for me — Colossians 3:1-4. The Good News Bible says it this way: “You have been raised to life with Christ. Set your hearts, then, on the things that are in heaven, where Christ sits on His throne at the right side of God. Keep your minds fixed on things there, not on things here on Earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” Here is the kicker for me, “. . .Your real life is Christ, and when He appears, then you too will appear with Him and share His glory.”
Our real life is Christ! That hit me. How many times have I read that Scripture and just read over it? We are His body and Christ is the head of that body (1 Corinthians 12:27; Colossians 1:18). He is the foundation of the temple and we are the temple of God (1 Corinthians 3:16). He is the vine and we are the branches (John 15:5). Hallelujah!
In everything that we do, we need to constantly be aware that we are an extension of Christ that we are His body and can only do what the head tells us. . .or should. Develop a hunger for Christ and fill your little brown boxes with a pure Christian life, encouraging others and representing Christ here on Earth through evangelism. All else will be burned up on that day.
What will be in our little brown cardboard box when Christ requires our Spirit (Ecclesiastes 12:7)? Will we just squeak into heaven or will we receive our reward for a job well done thou good and faithful servant. (Mathew 25:21)
People have said that if the authorities arrested us for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict us. I say, when people experience us. . .will they experience Christ?