Coloring Outside the Lines

“There seems to be a belief that once someone makes the initial connection with Jesus Christ, he [or she] has arrived. Immediately, a watertight box of solutions is handed to him [or her]. No more questions need to be asked—Jesus is the answer! Everything is now explained; there is nothing left to search for. This view is built on a need for precision and perfection, which has always been an enemy of art, which is all about coloring outside the lines. It is also an enemy of the reality that following Jesus is a journey, not an arrival.” – Steve Stockman

I was never very good at coloring within the lines. I hope my parents haven’t kept any of my report cards from elementary art. I remember learning about different artists and types of art in school. It became very clear to me that what was coming out of my hands with pastel crayons and papier-mache was nothing in league with Michelangelo or Leonardo. In fact, I quickly became convinced I had a greater likelihood of becoming a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, than of following in the footsteps of the artists for which they were named.

I would look at the awe-inspiring dragons some of my classmates created, and I would find myself filled with a combination of envy, frustration, admiration, and defeat. I told myself some people are artists and some people are not. If my artistic ‘winged-dog with scales’ was any indication, then I was not an artist.

I meet many young adults who feel like they’ve received a similar message about faith and the Way of Jesus. They may have gone through confirmation classes, been a shepherd in The Nativity pageant, or walked an aisle at summer youth camp, but somewhere along their journey it seemed like the faith they were exposed to and the life they were living were miles apart.

For many, the easy-answers, clear formulas, ‘bumper sticker theology,’ and upbeat Christian pop lyrics have a widening gap from their fragile, questioning, broken, and diverse world in which they find themselves. In my own life, there came a moment when I realized that if I was going to continue following Jesus, I needed a Savior who calls people who colors outside of the lines.

My life was and is messy. Jesus invites each of us to follow after him on a journey that is wild, unpredictable, and life-shaping. We don’t have to start off with all the answers or a perfect life. In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus’ disciples are shown to be wavering, forgetful, anxious, and slow to learn. The only thing they seem to have going for them is that they are going with Jesus. I fit right in with a crew like that. Let’s invite others into a faith that makes room for those who color outside of the lines.