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God in a box

Tonight’s Grey’s Anatomy / Private Practice double episode had a fascinating God-thread running through it. The basic plot is that Addison’s brother has what looks to be terminal brain parasites so she flies him to Seattle so that her ex-husband and best neuro-surgeon around, Derek, can treat him and there she makes her passionate appeal. She tells Derek that in order to cope with their divorce, she reduced him to a little box, something of a cardboard cut out, but that now she needs him to be a god, to save her brother. That’s where it starts to get interesting.

Because the next thing we know, Addison is in the chapel, trying to pray, much to the astonishment of all who know her. And it appears, that it wasn’t just Derek that she reduced to a box so that she could cope with him, but indeed God. But at this time, when there’s nothing else she can do, she takes God out of the box as well. The thing is, she has history with Derek, a relationship to call on, but, in her own words, “I have no clout with God.” She’s worried that God won’t answer her prayer because “he won’t know me”. Enter Callie, the orthopaedic surgeon who assures Addison, “You’re a great doctor who saves little babies. God knows who you are.” That sounds all very nice, but Addison’s right, isn’t she? Even if she’s done good things, she hasn’t had a relationship with God (see Jesus’ words, here.) There’s nothing to go on there.

As Addison expresses her inadequacy, that she doesn’t know how to pray (after all, she only goes to church at Christmas) Callie gets down on her knees and starts speaking out loud to God, modelling prayer. At one level, it’s an incredibly flawed prayer. She’s asking for wisdom about her newest love interest, glossing over the fact that she’s a lesbian and instead wondering whether this person is right for her – after all, she’s a paediatric surgeon and wears butterflies on her surgical cap! But what I liked about Callie’s prayer is that what she modelled to Addison was pouring her heart out to God, right down to telling God how hot this love interest was.

Because Addison’s biggest need is to have a relationship with God. She knows that asking God to come through and heal her brother when she doesn’t have a relationship with him is hollow. She knows that having God in a box is futile, that he is not the servant of a human being. And I wonder whether there’s a lesson there for us, not to offer the God who fixes things, but the God who cares, to whom we can pour out everything, from our latest love interest to the impending death of a family member.

By the end of the episode, Derek has saved Addison’s brother (God doesn’t get a mention) and Addison tells him, “You were a god today. You slew the dragon, you walked on water. But now I need you back in the tiny box.” I take it that with that, she puts God back into his box as well.

Peter Adam spoke in Ridley chapel again today on Leviticus – “you need a great high priest today” – and we were confronted with the dilemma not of how we can approach God but of how he can be in our presence. Because God is much bigger than the box we, Christian or non-Christian often confine him to. He is sovereign to bring healing and relational to hear the prayers of those whom he loves. Let’s not fall into the trap of offering the God who brings solutions. Let’s take a leaf out of Callie’s book and offer the God of relationship.

Categories: Written by Tamie

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Tamie Davis

Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at

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