Living Outside the Lines

by Jenelle Garden 

I hated Art class when I was a little girl. Making crafts alongside my school-aged peers proved to be a task beyond my realm of capability. My drawings would get questions like, “Is that a butterfly or an airplane, Sweetie?” And while Suzy would get compliments for her ability to stay inside the lines as she colored controllably, my teacher would give me a pat on the shoulder and suggest I slow down, saying, “Good, but try not to scribble so much.”  These well intentioned comments really scarred my little “inner artist.” I desired so much to conform and be the tidy little DaVinci that they wanted me to be, but my clumsy little fingers would not cooperate. After elementary school, I happily gave up on Art and concentrated my efforts on areas that came more easily to me. Now, as an elementary school teacher myself, I look back at this early experience with trying and failing, and giving up, with a renewed mind. 

The belief that we are incapable of rising to the occasion or meeting with expectations is nothing new. Even in the bible, there are examples, time and time again. I think back to the story in Matthew 19, when a man approached Jesus and asked him what good things he needed to do to earn eternal life. Jesus started with the things that came easily to the man (don’t murder, don’t steal, don’t lie, don’t commit adultery, honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as yourself). The man was feeling pretty good about himself and proclaimed, “I’ve done all that!” But, then Jesus threw him the curve ball, telling him that he must also sell all of his possessions, give everything to the poor, and come and follow Him. In Matthew 19:22 it says that this was the last thing the man expected to hear and he walked away feeling like a failure. 

As I’ve gained more understanding about who I am in Christ,  my confidence has grown. I find myself more willing to try and fail at new experiences. This is because I now understand that it’s okay not to conform to the expectations and patterns of this world (Romans 12:2). For me, the only lines I really want to color inside of are the ones that are designed by Jesus.

I recently took an Art class for adults. I approached it with the attitude that I would try again, have fun, and not care too much about the end result. What a new experience! Instead of painting to please others, I approached the experience with a real concentration on my Spirit. I didn’t worry about what the teacher thought, or my other classmates. I purposely used the “wrong colors,” and went with what I thought was pretty: a yellow sky, a teal blue pond, swirly looking leaves on the trees. My painting didn’t look anything like my peers’ works of art. But, it was pleasing to my soul; not so much because of how it looked, but because of how I felt as I made it. I felt His peace. I enjoyed the beauty of His creation around me as I painted outdoors. I remembered that everything in the landscape I painted was made for His joy and praise…my butterflies might still look like airplanes, but their little wings point toward heaven and flutter to the glory of the Lord!   

What have you tried and failed at? Did you fight or take flight? What do you think would happen if you approached the same activity, situation, or experience with a Romans 12:2 mindset?  Share your thoughts and comments below! 

Jenelle Garden is a first grade teacher, mother of 2 beautiful girls and married to her high school sweetheart. Jenelle recently joined the Beautiful Ministry as a small group leader and enjoys sharing her love for Jesus with other women and feels most blessed as she draws closer to God through fellowship.

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