The Joys of Coloring “Outside the Lines”


by Lt. Colonel Sharon Robertson –

It was fascinating, that tiny box of fine pastels. At age six, one of the joys of my life was to be allowed to use the slender, brilliantly colored sticks to color in my coloring bookÑbut there was a price to pay for that privilege. If I wanted to use the pastels, I had to learn to color within the lines! I remember practicing with crayons, carefully outlining the pictures, and learning to blend and smooth the colors until they achieved the illusion of shading and depth that I wanted. What a triumph it was when my mom not only allowed me to use her precious pastels, but eventually gave them to me, to use whenever I chose! By learning to color within the lines, by trying to duplicate on paper the sights and textures of life, I satisfied some deep, unexplored cravingÉ

That satisfaction lasted until I was in fourth grade, and the new art teacher shook my logical, color-within-the-lines world by asking an outrageous question: “Why did you paint that tree green and brown?” Shy, confused and tongue-tied, I muttered something, who knows what. Certainly not the obvious, “Because it is green and brown. “Why not blue, or purple?” she pressed me. “Why not use your imagination–paint what you think and feel.” Well, but that’s what I was doing. I thought the tree was green and brown, and I felt like I ought to paint it that way! Somehow, either because the teacher never satisfactorily explained her point, or perhaps because I just wasn’t ready to grasp her meaning, I retreated to my green-and-brown-treed world–not realizing that a tiny purple and blue tree had been planted on the horizon.

That image of a blue and purple tree haunted me for years. It was illogical, a blue and purple tree–as against the rules as coloring outside the lines! But what if…what if…?

As it turned out, once I started looking–really looking–at trees, I discovered that for the most part they are not green and brown at all. The “green” leaves change with the time of day, with the variety of tree, with the seasons, with how much water and nutrients they receive; the “brown” trunks and branches are almost never truly brown–they may be gray, or black and white, or reddish or greenish or bluish, or a combination of colors and shades, but they are rarely brown. Now when I paint a tree I am freed from “following the rules” –I strive to paint the impression of a tree, the “treeness” that is its essence–and sometimes it may end up purple and blue!

Jesus was a dyed-in-the-wool what-if-er. He was a quiet rebel with a cause. He never flouted the rules–colored outside society’s lines–for the joy of demonstrating his uniqueness, but he was a great risk-taker. When coloring outside the lines was important to accomplishing the goals of his ministry, he colored outside the lines, and demonstrated that the lines were, after all, artificial boundaries that had no power to stop him from expressing his message in the most powerful way possible. He chose to abandon a throne, and become a servant. He chose to pass through Samaria, and brought salvation to a village. He chose to see possibilities for righteousness in a sinner, and potential for success in a loser. He chose to accept death on a cross, and provided the way of salvation for the world. Those were not popular choices. They were not “color-inside-the-lines” choices.

The Western Territory is committed to a process called “visioning.” As a part of this process, we, the soldiers of this territory, are asked to “color outside the lines,” to discover the thrill of looking beyond artificial, self-imposed boundaries and discover the freedoms that are ours to effect positive, exciting, effective change through this God-sourced Army of ours. God grant us the VISION to accomplish His purposes–even if it may mean Coloring outside the lines.

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