A couple weeks ago when I was driving back to The Basilica I heard a news report on coloring books for adults. While I was listening to it, I flashed on the memory of an experience I had many years ago. I was visiting my brother and sister-in-law—and trying to be a good uncle—I spent some time playing with my niece and two nephews (all of whom are now adults). At one point the younger of my two nephews was attempting to color a picture. I say “attempting” because while he was using a variety of different crayons to color the picture, his efforts at staying inside the lines were being met with only marginal success. I commented on this and suggested that he try harder to stay inside the lines. His reply was a masterpiece of childhood simplicity. He looked at me and said: “That’s okay; I’m not sure what it’s going to be yet.” Silly me, I thought the picture was determined by the pre-drawn lines. My nephew, on the other hand, had a slightly broader vision. For him, the picture was whatever it turned out to be. He wasn’t limited by any preconceived ideas or pre-drawn lines. For him, the end result—what it looked like when he was finished—was what really mattered.
What stayed with me about this experience was that I think I often approach life the same way I approach coloring. I think I see the whole picture, but in reality my perception is limited and I see only what I want to see. In my mind the lines have already been drawn and all that is left is for me to try to stay within them. More often than I care to admit, I think I see the full and complete picture, only to discover later that there was more to be seen just outside my preconceived lines. In a nutshell, I often miss the big picture and instead see only a limited/reduced version.
I think the above is particularly true with God. I have discovered that more often than not, God draws “outside the lines” in my life. God sees a bigger picture than I do, and am often surprised (actually, more often amazed) when I finally get enough perspective to see that bigger picture. There are times when I have faced adversity or distress only to discover later that it was the source of great blessing and grace. On the other hand, there have been times when something I initially thought was a blessing, turned out not to be the blessing I thought it was.
It is indeed fortunate for us that God is not limited by our pre-drawn lines or our pre-conceived ideas. God sees a bigger picture. Often times, God draws outside the lines of our picture to make a picture of God’s own design. In this new year perhaps one of our resolutions could be that we strive to be open to the picture of ourselves, our lives, and our community that God has in mind. And may our prayer be that we might be open to God’s grace, that the picture God has in mind for us might become a reality.