October 28, 2006
When I was a little boy
the big people in my life
handed me a white piece of paper
with pretty pictures on it
and some crayons, and said,
“Here, you can color this in,
but be sure you color between the lines.”
And though I wasn’t very good at coloring
between the lines
I willingly complied
because the big people in my life
smiled and said how good it was that I was trying so hard.
And I always liked it when the big people
smiled, because it made me smile, too.
When I got old enough for school
I went, and the big people there said
“Here is the way to do your lessons.
Do them well and you will get a bright, shiny star!”
So I worked very hard at learning how to do my lessons
just the way the big people told me to do them.
And mostly they were very pleased.
And they smiled, and gave me that bright, shiny star
just like they said, and I wore it proudly.
And I smiled, because it made me happy
when the big people smiled.
Some of the other little people made fun of my star.
They said, “You don’t have to do your lessons
and color in the lines
the way the big people tell you to.
They don’t know anything anyway.
The way they tell you to do them—
that’s not how it works in the real world.”
I didn’t know about this real world.
But in my little world the people that mattered to me most were all big people,
and it sure seemed to me like they knew what they were talking about.
There weren’t any other little people in my family,
and the big people liked it when I colored in the lines,
and when I worked hard on my lessons,
and brought home my bright, shiny stars.
For many years, I worked very hard at my lessons
and I always kept my colors inside the lines.
And the big people gave me lots of happy smiles
and bright, shiny stars.
The other little people sometimes made fun
of my carefully colored pictures
and my bright shiny stars,
but I didn’t pay much attention to them
because the big people seemed happy with
what I was doing, and that was the most
important thing to me.
One day I went to church
and at the church they also handed out crayons
and paper and told us to color between the lines.
They said, “If you color your pictures real nice
that will make God smile
and he’ll be pleased with you.”
And I very much wanted to make God happy
and put a smile on his face,
so I worked very hard to make sure my little
pictures were just so.
And I told the other children to make sure
they stayed inside the lines, too,
so they could make God happy.
In church they gave us a book
and they said
“If you really want to make God happy
be sure and do everything just like this
book tells you. If you don’t,
God will be sad and God will be mad!”
I didn’t want to make God mad or sad,
so I learned everything the book said
and tried real hard to do it just the way it said.
Then one day I was almost all grown up.
I wasn’t a little person anymore;
now I was a big person.
I was so excited!
Now I could be just like all the big people
I had admired so much all my life!
So when the time came,
I went out into the world
and the other big people said
“Here, we need you to draw us a picture.”
But I said, “I don’t know how to draw a picture.
They only taught me how to color the pictures inside the lines.
No one ever said I could make my own picture.
I’m sorry; I don’t know how to do that!”
And I was very sad, and very afraid,
because they wanted me to make my own pictures,
and I didn’t know how to do that!
I never knew you could do that!
I never knew it was OK to make your own!
No one had ever taught me.
I was too afraid to try.
So I went away very sad.
Then I went to another place.
And they said to me,
“We need you to make something for us.
And we have a bunch of problems that need to be solved.
Your job is to solve the problems.”
But when I saw what the problems were,
it was nothing they had ever taught me
in my lessons in school
or at home with the big people.
So I said, “I’ll be happy to
solve your problems if you’ll give me the book
that tells me how to do it.”
They looked at me kind of funny and said,
“What? There’s no book.
We want you to solve the problems.
That’s your job.
That’s why we hired you.”
But no one had ever told me I could
make anything or solve problems myself,
and they never taught me how to solve problems or to make anything.
All they taught me was
how to do my lessons
and how to color inside the lines
and how to repeat what I’d been told.
So I was very sad and very afraid,
and so I went away from there, too.
I wondered what I was going to do—
I had worked so hard to learn my lessons
and color the pictures
but now I was realizing that
The World had no use for the things I had worked so hard to learn.
They wanted me to do things, make things.
No one had ever told me I could make things.
No one had ever taught me how.
I was very sad and afraid and didn’t know what to do.
Then I had an idea.
I said, “The church taught me to color in the lines
and follow the book.
Maybe they will have something I can do
where I can use all the things I’ve been taught!”
So I went to the church.
And they were very happy!
They said, “Oh, we’re so glad to have a young person
here with us. All our little people went away when
they grew up and got big.
So come on in.
Yes, we have work for you to do!!”
So the church people handed me another book
that was almost as big as the first one they had given me.
And they said,
“Learn everything in this book and follow it.
and if you do, everything will be wonderful for you!”
So I worked very hard and learned everything in the new book
the church gave me.
I was so happy! Now I knew what both books said.
And I was very happy that I had found a place
that followed so many of the things I had been taught.
I worked very hard to live by both of the books,
and the older big people were very pleased.
And I was happy again.
I felt safe and secure,
And I worked very hard to teach all the other people
In the church all the rules in the books they had taught me.
After a while, though, something strange happened.
Even though I was doing everything the books said to do
I wasn’t happy.
Neither were the other people in the church
I was trying to teach the rules in the books to,
though they worked hard to act as if they were happy.
Not only that,
but somehow inside I knew that God was not happy either.
In fact, I felt He was sad.
But I was doing everything the people in the church
told me to do! And I was doing it well!
It was supposed to be working!
But deep inside I knew it wasn’t working.
I grew more and more sad.
I started asking the older big people
in the church about this,
but they said,
“You’re just imagining things.
God is happy with you following all the rules in the books,
and if you do it right, the people will be happy too.
You just need to work harder!”
I believed them for a while
but it didn’t work.
I wasn’t happy,
the people weren’t happy,
and God wasn’t happy.
So finally, with a very sad face,
I left there and went back out into the world.
I didn’t know what I was going to do.
The World expected me to make things and solve problems,
but I had never been taught to do these things
and I was afraid.
I wandered around for a long time
with a very sad face.
People tried to cheer me up,
but no one knew what to say to make me smile again.
Finally, one day God spoke to me and said,
“My little one,
Do not be sad, and do not be afraid.
I say to you this day
that it’s alright for you to
make new things, even though
no one ever told you that you could.
I give you permission.
Go ahead and try to draw pictures,
even though no one has ever shown you how.
Try and solve problems.
It’s okay. I gave you a heart and a mind and a will.
I meant for you to use them.
Don’t be afraid.
I won’t judge you or be angry with you
if you fail, only if you don’t try.
And remember, I am right here with you,
always, to help you and guide you.
I will teach you. Listen to me.
Learn from me.
And I will send helpers into your life,
others who can assist you and teach you and show you the way
Only do not be so proud as to refuse their help when they come.
Listen, learn, and try. I only ask that you try.
Trust in me. Look to me. And above all, don’t be too proud
to admit when you need help, and to ask for it.
I love you.”
So now at last
I am beginning to learn the joy
of tiny freedoms:
Of coloring outside the lines
and even venturing to draw my own pictures.
All my life I have depended on boxes,
the safety and security of boxes.
But the boxes have kept me from
being all I was meant to be.
So I’m finding the courage to leave the boxes behind,
because most of them are only in my mind anyway…
And I’m learning to venture off the path on occasion
in order to look at the scenery up close
and discover the beauty and wonder
of this incredible world God made;
or to make new paths when needed
as God leads.