The things we’ve always done won’t get us to a place we’ve never been. We have to think outside the box, but the problem is the box is magnetic, we are by default pulled back into the status quo, old and comfortable thinking patterns. What do you do when you feel called to something outside the “box”, and you are not even sure what it is, you just know it’s not in the “box?” How do we break free from the pull of the box and soar into orbit. David and Donna talk about the fuel necessary to break out of the box. Sometimes getting “outside the box” requires new frameworks, new paradigms, new learning. Getting “outside the box” will require new learning and preparation.


047 – Getting Outside the Box: Breaking the Pull of the Status Quo

I challenge myself to “think outside the box.” It is a well-worn phrase.

I remember years ago sitting at a table with a mentor of mine, Ron Roberts, who spoke much into my life when he was the National Men’s Ministries Leader for our network back in the Promise Keepers days. I was in my late 30s at the time. I remember a lunch with 4 or 5 other leaders with Ron. He took out his pen and drew a box on the paper table cover. He said, “guys, in this box are all of the things we are doing.” He then listed each of our initiatives drawing small circles representing each one. Then he said, “this is what we’ve got to do,” as he drew a small circle about 18 inches away from the box. He said, “we’ve got to get outside the box and do something unlike anything we’ve done before to get to the next level.

It’s a simple concept, and one I often consider, but there is one problem: The “box” exerts a strong gravitational pull that few overcome.

The last several podcasts have themed around following new and great adventures in life and ministry. We really did not plan that, but as we follow the passion of what is in our hearts, the things that occupy our waking thoughts and prayers, this is what keeps surfacing within us.

When we calibrate our lives we have to calibrate in the right direction. I am a coaching proponent, but I believe coaching without a framework, without a defined destination is a waste of time. We have to tune toward something.

There are seasons of life. Seasons to dig in and walk worthy of the calling we’ve received. In other seasons something outside the “box” calls out.

Anchoring in all of the things we’ve always done may very well be the path to stay on, but lately, something from beyond has been calling out to us. Some days I want to just be old and tired and use that for an excuse, but that is not where we are in life.

What do you do when you feel called to something outside the box, and you are not even sure what it is, you just know its not in the “box?”

First, why is it sometimes so difficult to gain clarity on things “outside the box?” [7:33]

Have you ever known exactly what to do with some things in your life, but other things are just a mystery to you? You are so sure about some decisions and directions, but other things you just don’t know what to do about them.

It is preparation and context. Sometimes we simply do not have the knowledge base necessary for God to fully show us what we need to know. In the grief process of losing a spouse I had to come to the God-directed conclusion that I would never really understand. I simply did not have a deep enough understanding of every physical and spiritual dimension to really have the capacity to understand. There are a lot of things in life-like that, things we do not understand because we don’t have the context, the knowledge base, the experience, or the framework to grasp them.

Scripture often describes God as indescribable, yet it describes many things about Him.

He is presented as unknowable, yet He reveals Himself to us in many ways.

We are told His ways are higher than our ways.

He gives us a peace that surpasses our understanding.

There are things in our lives that will continue to unfold over the course of our journey that we simply do not have the knowledge base to understand right now. This is why PREPARATION is so important. In a previous podcast we warned about listening to everyone and building our lives on random advice that may be outside the parameters of God’s directives for us. Another side to that thought is that God does bring educational opportunities, books, mentors, counselors, and even revelation into our lives as he is building a context and a framework, bringing us to a place of understanding the awesome things he wants to show and teach us.

Sometimes getting “outside the box” requires new frameworks, new paradigms, new learning. We have to see it as a journey because somethings we understand and are ready to act upon, but something just have not yet been fully revealed to us.

Getting “outside the box” will require new learning and preparation.

Second, getting “outside the box” requires breaking the gravitational pull of the box. [18:14]

Think of a rocket on the launch pad at Cape Canaveral. The massive rocket has multiple stages, each containing rocket fuel. When the rocket launches a massive force of energy created by the burning rocket fuel pushes the massive rocket skyward.

The rocket is massive simply because it must carry enough fuel to break the pull of the earth. The part of a manned rocket where the astronaut sits is a very small little capsule sitting on the top of the engine stages. When the rocket launches each stage forcefully spends its fuel and then drops off and plummets to earth. This process is repeated until the final stage breaks the capsule away from the gravitational force of the earth and the small capsule can then freely orbit the earth, still held in place by the pull of the earth, but free to orbit.

The sole purpose of most of the rocket is simply containing the fuel to propel the capsule beyond the gravitational pull of the earth. I’m not a rocket scientist, but I do understand that one simple reality.

The “box” has a very strong gravitational pull. The natural tendency of any idea, any initiative, any life direction is for it to succumb to the strong forces pulling downward. It is a constant force. It never lets up. The status quo constantly beckons with force.

When we must get “outside the box” we need a violent burst caused by tons of “rocket fuel” to break free and get in orbit. I use “violent,” not in the sense of being reckless, but in the sense of a determined focus.

I am asking myself the question, “what is the fuel that will take me to the places God bids me come?”

If the rocket does not have enough fuel to break the downward pull, the capsule had better have a parachute, because it is coming down.

If the fuel is not properly formulated and prepared it could explode.

Gravity is a law. It is a good thing. Without it we would float aimlessly. It keeps us grounded. The  “box” is not a bad place, and anytime we think we need to burst out of it, we need to do so with great calculation, caution, and preparation. It can sometimes take nearly a lifetime to pull away some of the limiting forces in our lives.

Third, what is the “fuel” we need for breaking the pull of the “box?” [26:08]

The thrust of the rocket engines must be greater than the gravitational pull. It takes incredible and focused energy to push into new places. To use another analogy, pushing to a new place is like the travail of giving birth. We’ve got to have enough force to break out of the box, but too much force will cause an explosion or a disaster and the pieces will fall back to earth. Breaking the pull of the “box” requires focused and measured preparation and strength.

Focus is our Fuel

We require focus to hear the directives of God above all of the other voices and noise in our lives. Focus directs our attention away from the critics and opposition and onto the destination. Rocket fuel spread out and ignited causes a fire, rocket fuel put in a canister and exhausted through a nozzle creates thrust.

Calibration Tool… 

You have a lot of great ideas, how will you focus on the ones that will give you the lift you truly desire? Identify your “outside the box” initiatives, prioritize, and focus (limit) your energy to those few critical things.

Knowledge is our Fuel

If you want to launch a rocket and ride it into orbit, you had better know what you are doing. The gift of knowledge is one of the listed gifts of the Holy Spirit. Knowledge comes through revelation and preparation. God can dump knowledge on you, but until you have the framework to contain the knowledge you aren’t going to understand.

Have you ever taught a complex subject and you realized the student did not have the framework in which to apply the knowledge. It’s like teaching writing composition to an illiterate. They have to learn to read first. We sometimes operate under the misconception that God will dump knowledge on us to do what he calls us to do. He not only will not, he cannot. On my journey the knowledge of God and the understanding he has given has come through lessons.

Sometimes you are in a “box” you want to break free of, but your first order of business is gathering the fuel of knowledge and preparation. It may take years. It may take most of your life. You may not even know why you are learning what you are learning, but you are gathering fuel because the day will come when it’s time to fire the rockets and orbit. Some people never get to that place because they’ve never gathered the fuel of knowledge and preparation.

Calibration Tool…

Do you know what you don’t know? What are the commitments you need to make right now to grow? What are your God-given passions leading you toward? Sometimes you can’t eve really know what you are preparing for, but as you follow the passions God develops within you, paths fo preparation will emerge. Is it a degree program? Is it a mentoring relationship? Is it praying and seeking God for which books to read? Start paying attention to the knowledge gathering and preparation God is prompting within you.

If you already know the direction, but just don’t have the fuel, then your first step is prayerfully pursuing the preparation and understanding necessary to lift out of the box.


There is absolutely so much more we want to say about this, but this is all we have time for today.

I am content to live a simple and peaceful life. Status quo is sometimes my friend, it is a comfortable place where I can find much peace. There are deep yearnings within me given by God to fulfill the unique mission and calling to which He bids me. My tendency is to stay in the box, to keep moving forward, but there are those times when it is time to build a rocket that could blow up in our face, but we have to break the pull of the earth and get into orbit. When that’s the case, we have to sharpen our focus, come to know what we don’t know, and carefully prepare ourselves for a wild and exciting ride.