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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Faith and Values: Who draws the lines you color in?

By Paul Graves For the Spokesman-Review

Dear Katie, Claire and Andy,

“Okay, kids, it’s time to get out your crayons and learn to color a picture!” Do you remember when you first began to color? Did you have a blank piece of paper? Or maybe a drawing of a bunny or a house?

You began coloring before you could even talk clearly. In toddler-hood, our gross/big-motor skills are all we have, so our coloring goes all over the paper. When our fine/small-motor skills begin to develop, then we can color better within the lines we draw, or lines drawn by someone else.

Have you heard this old story? A Sunday-school teacher was watching her children doing art work. She asked one little boy, “What are you drawing?” He proudly replied, “I’m drawing a picture of God.” “But no one knows what God looks like,” the teacher said. To which the boy boldly responded, “They will when I get done!”

It’s a cute story. But like so many stories, it suggests more depth than just smiles, grins or giggles. Depending on his age or drawing skill, the boy may have colored within some lines he drew, or way beyond any lines he had drawn.

Each of us likely colors within some lines. Each of us likely colors beyond other lines. So here’s my question for today: Who draws the lines you color in? Who draws the picture of God that you have in your imagination? These aren’t frivolous questions, kids.

Most of us never “drew” a picture of God all on our own. We learn what God looks like from parents, from teachers (Sunday and regular school), friends, preachers, some Holy Book, movies (like “The 10 Commandments” or “Bruce Almighty”), church doctrines, in locker rooms and on the street.

Everywhere we turn, someone or something is drawing the lines for our picture of God. And our metaphorical fine/small motor skills are often pliable enough that we find ourselves coloring within those lines without even thinking about it.

Now, let’s visit that little boy’s picture of God again. There is a shadow side to that cute story. What if you see his picture of God, and think it’s the real thing, the only picture of God worth seeing?

That’s a temptation for many people, I believe. Someone we admire, someone we trust, tells us that God looks like “this”. If you are even slightly tempted to stop looking for other pictures of God, please resist the temptation!

For example: what does your picture of the “Old Testament God” look like? Please be honest with yourself. Do you have a single picture? I know many people who seem to. It’s often a harsh, judgmental God who punishes sinners and reward the righteous.

When I was a child, I could draw that picture pretty easily. Today, I see so many more, very different images of God in the Old Testament. If you look carefully, God is a mother, a servant, a woman of wisdom, a shepherd, a big fish, and maybe over a hundred more images.

God is always more than the lines we draw around the image we see. God is always more than the lines someone else draws around the images we see. Our imaginations really aren’t big enough and compassionate enough to draw any meaningful lines that show who God is!

Learn from the lines others draw for us. But don’t limit your hearts and curiosities to those lines. Use your gross/big-motor skills when drawing your own pictures of God. You just might experience God in a new, more colorful, and expansive way!

Happy coloring,