I hate coloring books.
Okay, “hate” may be too strong of a word. Maybe a better choice would be “highly dislike.” No, coloring books never did anything to me; I just never particularly liked them. My little sisters, on the other hand, LOVE coloring books. In fact, to this day they still get coloring books as gifts for most major (and even some minor) holidays. Especially Rascal. She’s moderately obsessed with them. But me? I never got into them.
That doesn’t mean I didn’t have coloring books. On the contrary, I had quite a collection. I just never colored in them; instead, I traced them. Looking back, I now recognize that as moderately pathetic, but in a weird way it still makes sense to me. If I colored the pictures (as most normal people do), that would be it; I would never get to color them again. My decision would be made, and they would forever be pink or blue or green or some unfortunate combination of the same. BUT if I traced the pictures, I could enjoy them forever and ever. So if I used a color I didn’t like or accidentally went outside the lines, no problem! Simply retrace the original and—viola!—I’d magically have another chance. Minimal risk, maximum results—that was my approach to coloring books. After all, why color when I could trace?
My tracing theory seemed to work quite well. Over my childhood, I cranked out a massive collection of beautifully-colored pictures (at least, my mom said they were beautiful). And when I saw my artwork hanging on the fridge, held up by free Pizza Hut magnets, I grinned and felt like the next Picasso. Precision was my purpose, and thanks to my tracing technique, I could eventually make every picture perfect. Except one problem remained: there were only so many pictures. Before long, I’d exhausted the entire supply of my simple-to-trace coloring books. Thus, what my magic-marker masterpieces boasted in perfection, they lacked in variety. And worse, because they were all loose-leaf copy paper rather than bound in the coloring book, my pictures were eventually lost; my magnum opus vanished without a trace. Bummer.
I realize this coloring-book story probably sounds silly. I mean, what kind of kid doesn’t actually use a coloring book? The kind of kid who grows up to be me. With age comes understanding, and as I’ve gotten older, I now understand the reason for my pathological tracing:
Fear of failure, fear of commitment, fear of the color purple (just kidding), fear of letting go. I so badly want to be in control of my life, to manage it, to keep everything neat and tidy and perfectly inside the lines that I get stuck. Stuck in guilt, stuck in regret, stuck in my own frustration. The world is full of oranges and greens and blues and pinks, a veritable rainbow of possibilities just waiting to be tasted, yet so often I choose to stick with my number two graphite grayness. The choice isn’t conscious, but it’s habit-forming. My fear keeps me trapped, and as a result my coloring-book of life remains pitifully, pathetically, and disappointingly empty.
But what if it doesn’t have to be like that?What if there’s more than this dull and colorless existence? What if we were made for more than this? What if you and I and all the other color-phobic people in the world have a choice, a choice to create, imagine, and enjoy life to its fullest? What if all that were possible?
You see, the Creator of the universe, the One who paints the wings on butterflies and makes the flowers grow, that same God fashioned you and me. The ultimate Artist crafted us with creativity in mind. He made us to make things—to live and love and color the pages to our heart’s content. Yes, He drew lines for you to stay inside, but rather than causing frustration or fear, those limits are life-giving; after all, without the lines, there would be no picture. Your life is a work of art, a masterpiece just waiting to happen. But if, like my childhood self, you spend your time cautiously tracing and retracing, you’ll miss the point and have nothing to show for it. Safer isn’t always better.
So in 2013, be brave. Wield the magic marker, not the colored pencil. Pick your favorite crayon, be it cerulean, jungle green, or tickle-me-pink, and create. Don’t let critics—whether internal or external—hold you back. Feel the freedom of living beyond your fears. Use bold strokes. Read between the lines and see the big picture. Learn from your mistakes. Know that this life is your gift, a page that only you can color. And above all else, remember that the Master Artist is the only Audience who matters. Because of Him, you can be free; because of Him, you don’t have to be colorblind anymore.
2013 is a blank slate, a clean sheet, a picture eager to be colored in. The pages are open and ready, loaded with possibilities. What color will you choose first?