A Year of Coloring Outside the Lines

A Year of Coloring Outside the Lines July 13, 2019

It’s been a year since my first blog appeared on Patheos. My friend and former boss, Jerusalem, came up with the theme, “Coloring Outside the Lines,” a nod to my book and to fortuitous glimpses of the next year.

pixabay // fietzfotos

Of course, the theme wasn’t my first choice. Although I can’t find the original emails, I was probably pushing for something like “Messy Motherhood” or “White Lady Got Woke – But Isn’t About to Call Herself Woke” or “Everything Smells Like Pee,” the latter of which would include an ode to the constant smell I can’t seem to rid of little-boy infested bathrooms.

But Jerusalem was right, because spiritually, emotionally and intellectually, it’s been a year of learning to color outside the lines. And if my friend Neighbor Mark has anything to say about it, the journey has only just begun.

A couple of weeks ago, Mark and I chatted on the phone, as we do from time to time. Not only is he one of the funniest humans I know, but he’s made it his life’s mission to get me to snort – which only makes him try and make me laugh even harder, and makes me appreciate his efforts to get straight to the heart of what’s really important in life.

But as anyone knows, there’s often a whole lot of truth in humor, for that which is funny has a way of breaking down walls to expose the hidden things underneath. 

So, Mark and I caught up, him on his husband, his dog, the house the two of them were remodeling; me on the boys, the husband, the book-baby that has started to sleep through the night. And in between the attempts at snort-filled laughter, truth squeezed its way in: as I told him about some of the harder things of the last couple of months, his reply was simple.

“Welcome to life, honey bunny.”

Part of me wanted to scream every pithy Christian aphorism in response: but isn’t joy just around the corner? But isn’t it true that God’s not going to give me anything I can’t handle? But doesn’t God say that everything happens for a reason?

(No, God doesn’t actually say that. And if you need a good summer read, start by smashing the powers of bad Christian theology with Kate Bowler’s exquisite memoir).

I want so deeply to stay within the lines, to have for myself a neat and tidy faith that allows no room for sadness or pain or even anger. I want God to live in a space filled with rainbows and puppies and crispy, buttery scones – with all the things, in other words, that tend to easily put a smile on my face and make me the happiest version of myself.

But God doesn’t always meet us in the bright and cheery spaces of life. Instead, God meets us in darkness, when we’re on our knees in desperation, when every perfectly detailed attempt at coloring inside the lines doesn’t work yet again. 

So, I close my eyes and I beg for peace.

I ask for new ways of seeing and new ears of hearing and I still myself long enough to start over again. After all, this starting-over is grace. This starting-over is the mercy that streams through my curtains every morning. And this starting-over is also perhaps God’s way of saying, “Hey. I see you and you are not alone, not in your hurt, not in your pain, not in your loneliness.”

I don’t doubt this invitation – to color outside the lines, perhaps for the very first time – is extended to you as well.

Care to join me?

Even though I’m away from social media (and all things Internet) for six weeks, I’d love to hear how YOU’RE learning to color outside the lines. Share in the comment section below! 

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