Many years ago while visiting my brother and sister-in-law, I spent some time playing with my niece and two nephews (all of whom are now adults). At one point during my visit my youngest nephew 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 limited success. I commented on this and suggested that he try harder to say inside the lines. His response was a masterpiece of childhood simplicity.
He looked at me and said: “That’s okay. I’m not sure what the picture’s gonna 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 product was what really mattered.
In the years since this experience happened, I have reflected on it often. You see, many times I have approached my life similar to the 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. 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 effect, I often missed the big picture and settled for a limited/reduced version.
I think the above is particularly true in regard to my relationship 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 I am surprised (and sometimes amazed) when I finally get enough perspective to see that bigger picture. There are times I have faced adversity or distress only to discover later that they were the source of great blessing or grace. On the other hand there have been times when something that initially appeared to be a blessing was in fact not the blessing I originally thought it was.
It is indeed fortunate for us that God is not limited by our preconceived ideas or the pre-drawn lines in our lives. God sees the bigger picture. And often times God draws outside the lines of our picture, to make a picture of God’s own design. In light of this, over the years my prayers have become less specific as to what I want and more open to what God wants for me. In this way I am hopeful that I might be more open to the picture of myself and my life that God has for me, and that I might work with God to make this picture a reality.