My right hand clutched the blue crayon so tightly, my fingertips turned from pink to white. I don’t remember what the picture was, but I remember how I wanted to do a good job coloring it. I started slowly, coloring along the black line of whatever empty shape or picture was on the page. I noticed the boy sitting next to me was almost done, and instinctively, I sped up. When I did, the blue color started leaking past the lines with loud squeaking noises. The boy next to me looked at my page and announced, “That looks horrible! You’re not supposed to color outside the lines like that, Tasha!”
Another classmate responded to the boy sitting next to me by saying, “It doesn’t matter, and it’s no big deal. It looks great.” Maybe he saw how hard I’d been trying.
I looked from one boy to the other, wondering who I should believe. One was a voice of judgment and shame, the other, a voice of grace that believed my coloring could grow and change with time.
I’ve never been great at coloring in the lines. For much of my life, I believed there were hard lines I needed to keep myself contained in so I could force myself to be the phantom student, daughter, wife, mother, friend, writer, fill-in-the-blank I was “supposed” to be.
When I starting working in full-time ministry overseas right out of college, I wanted to make sure I fit into the lines of excellent missionary, cross-cultural superstar, language learner, teammate, and friend.
When my husband and I first got married, I was intent on becoming the best wife I could be. I planned to read all the books, imitate godly women, and make sure I was “coloring in the lines” at all times. A friend told me about a book she read the year before on how to be an “excellent wife.” Inspired by Proverbs 31, the book walked through characteristics that an excellent wife would have.
I didn’t get very far in that book. Barely through chapter two, I closed it and threw it across the room. At that point, I hadn’t heard or studied the context of the poem that Proverbs 31 is. I didn’t know it was an acrostic poem originally memorized by men, that personified wisdom, not a phantom woman.
In each of these scenarios, I was that little girl in a classroom again, holding that crayon as tightly as possible, ready to will myself to be what I thought I was supposed to be, ever-aware of how far I had to go by other’s (often wrong) standards, and constantly failing my own expectations no matter how hard I tried not to.
At every transition and every daybreak, there are voices and narratives to listen to. I’ve clung to the harsher voices because they carry an illusion of safety. I’ve feared that too much grace would let me run astray — so far outside of the lines that I would be lost forever. But God says grace is abundant, not scarce. It is given unreservedly, never earned. Pride is its enemy, not the failure to measure up. It isn’t license to personal preferences and liberty; it is the gateway to living motivated by love and loving others freely because of it.
There’s no hope for transformation without the unlimited space of Jesus’ grace.
The world still feels tense most days. I’m struggling to navigate changed relationships and places that aren’t what they were before. Photo memories pop up on my phone at just the right time, cruelly reminding me how much has changed. I sense tightened, readied fists in people’s words (my own included) — on social media, while driving on the highway, and in the narrow aisles of the grocery store down the street where my cart and kids are taking up what feels like too much space. I feel the constant temptation to point my finger at the people who I think are “the problem” driving in the round-a-bouts or just a few rows over at church.
In elementary school and now on the edge of midlife, if I listen to the spirit of little boy who shamed me, I become someone who carries shame and delivers what I carry. If I listen to the voice of Jesus with a crayon in His hand, I become another presence of grace, motivated to keep going, to keep learning from my experiences and my mistakes.
Becoming an excellent [fill in the blank] may be a goal for some, but it’s fast dead-end for me. Gazing at Jesus, the ultimate One with enough excellent love to go around, is a better way. Jesus takes what is weak and uses it as a vessel for His unmatchable strength. Jesus pursues the un-excellent and makes beauty from what I’d choose to throw away. Jesus takes our coloring-outside-the-lines to show us our need for Him. Jesus guides our tired hands toward good and tells us we are His beloved, who can do nothing less and nothing more to be offered His living water of ever-flowing grace.Leave a Comment
Thank you. Beautiful.
Thanks for reading, Pamela
That was beautiful Tasha Jun♥️
Thank you, Deborah!
Dorcas Wolf says
So well written! Thank-you Tasha for helping me to feel understood and loved by God.
Dorcas, I’m so glad the words here made you feel loved and understood by God. Thank you for letting me know that.
I love this Tasha. Thanks
I’m so glad to hear that. Thank you, Amy.
Dawn Ferguson-Little says
Tasha that was beautiful of how you came to Jesus by colouring. I believe in all of us. We are who Jesus made us to be. We will never be perfect. No matter what some people say about us. We will never be good at all things. People even kids can be cruel. With their words. Like with you and that boy saying what he said to you when colouring in. You found it hard to keep in the lines. You have to forgive and not let it eat you. Especially if that person or kid not saved. They will not think about their words. They will just say what is in their mind. They might not care if hurts your feelings or not. So we have to be very careful with our words more so when especially saved. Not hurt people with our words. As they can take them to heart. It can take a very long time to forgive the person or kid for what they said that hurt. I believe Jesus is proud of you Tasha for at least trying to colour in between the line. God loves a trier. Your colouring in is a master piece to Jesus. Even if you did colour outside the lines. It is your work and no one else’s. It makes you who you are and even if you find it hard to colour within the line. Jesus still loves your master piece. He loves that tried. It like me with crocheting. I can’t for all the life of me do it. I even went on line to YouTube to get a beginner course on crocheting. I tried to follow what the person on the YouTube video was telling me to do. I found myself getting madder and madder with it. My Husband then said Dawn put it away. As see your getting cross with it. Is hurting me. To see it annoy you and make you cross. At least you tried. So I took my Husband advice. Put it away. It was not for me. I have not tried it since. Nor will I be ever again. Then I heard the Lord say Dawn I am proud of you for trying. I smiled. As I did get upset that I couldn’t do it. Then I went to our women’s group in our Church said tried crocheting. But even went on YouTube to get beginner course on it. Still could not master it. So it’s not for me. Before that a lady in our Women’s group. Before I went home to practice it. Laughed at the effort I had made in our Church Women group. That lady said Dawn and laughed. What kind of mess are doing something along those line. That looks offal. I said to this lady who was good at it. I can’t get the hang of this no matter what. She this lady in our Women’s group even tried to help me. It was no good. So I said to her I will leave it for to day and try at home. But I was a bit hurt that she laughed at the offal job of crocheting I had tried too do. But I said nothing. As she could have said good on you for at least trying but she didn’t. That is what hurt. Like you with that person Tasha. They could have instead of saying what they. At least you are trying to draw within the lines. It reminded me as write this reply. Of song I think I learnt at Sunday School when small. It is “Jesus hands were kind hands doing good to all”. That person that laughed even though I didn’t let them know it hurt they laughed at my efforts of trying to crochet. Like that time that person said to you what they did. But both theses people could have been a bit kinder. Not said what they said and been like the song. “Jesus hand were kind hands doing good to all”. They could have been kinder and good to us both the person that said what they said to you about not drawing in-between the lines. That person to me by laughing. That person that did that too me. Is saved. They should have known better. Been kind like Jesus. No hurt me by laughing at my crochet which I be knew myself was not good. But I am proud of you Tasha for trying to colour in the lines. Me for the crocheting. What matters most. Is we both tried. Plus what Jesus say about us not people. Jesus is I know this proud we tried. Love you all incourage in my prayers. Love Dawn Ferguson-Little xx
Oh Dawn, I’m so sorry about what happened with the crocheting – that would’ve hurt me as well. But, as you said, we can be proud of our effort and may these experiences that that impacted us inform us as we interact with others. May you and I be a voice of grace and give courage away. Grateful for you, beautiful Dawn.
I loved this Tasha, thank you!
You are so welcome. Thanks, Courtney!
Carolyn F. says
Thank you, Carolyn.
Thank you, Tasha! Your words are an encouragement to me this morning.
I’m so glad these words were an encouragement to you, Irene!
Being a Christian dad with three lovely daughters your article has helped me to see them more through Our Father God’s eyes. Thank you sister.
Mitch, thank you for letting me know that. Glad you are here.
Becky L. says
Tasha, this story is so good. So thankful for the grace of Jesus as life isn’t always easy. From childhood to be an adult for years. He’s always with us. Times when I feel upset I remember to look for things in my day to be thankful for. I’m a photographer and at times i feel I’m not as good as others as they have better, more expensive cameras and lenses. I continue to work on my photos and share it with people on my blog. I get disappointed I don’t get many comments on my posts but alot readers. I continue to share scripture as well. Never know how it help people. God bless you Tasha!!!
Thank you so much, Becky. I pray you are encouraged in your creative work as you reflect our creator God when you capture images. May you know this and delight in this when you are tempted to listen to other voices.
Sandy Groves says
One of the Best writings that
I have ever read! It shows how
Important it is to be kind!
You never know who is hurting.
God Bless !
That’s so kind to say, Sandy. Thank you, and amen!
Kathleen Burkinshaw says
Dear Tasha Jun, I also could not stay in the lines while coloring no matter how hard I tried as a child. Even before my hands hurt too much to hold a nail polish brush,almost as much polish that made it onto my nails ended up on my finger tips as well. I’ve always been a people please and perfectionist which is a horrible duo. I tried to fit in the lines of whatever does a perfect daughter,student, friend, mom. white American,Japanese American, supposed to look like. Never feeling that I was doing any of it even half ‘perfect’. Even whenever I’m in the hospital or my many medical visits, I want to be the ‘perfect’ patient. Being an author where everything is so subjective adds and extra layer of vulnerability. I tend to take criticism and lack of responses straight to my heart and hearing echoes of “just imagine how successful you would be if you just worked a little harder” from my childhood. There are days between the emotional and physical pain that I want to break all my crayons in frustration like I wanted to do as a child(but didn’t because that would make a mess and surely that ‘perfect’ student in front of me would never that way)..Your beautiful words remind me that I am loved by Jesus who is perfect. I don’t have to be perfect. I can just ‘be’. I can color outside the lines, there isn’t just one perfect way to be a person,to be loved by Him. Thank you so much for giving me strength this morning. God bless ❤
Yes, you are wholly loved, Kathleen. I felt your pain and your courage in the words you shared here. I understand, friend, and I’m so grateful for the tender, brave heart God has given you, and for how you and your story reflect Him in a needed way. Love you!
Thank you for this amazing story. I can identify with many of your
Only God’s grace can save me from being such a people pleaser. God’s blessings and love
Thank you, Karen.
Beth Williams says
No one down here is perfect. We are all flawed humans. We will stumble & color outside the lines lots. That’s ok. God gives us grace upon grace to get up & try again. Society puts pressure on us to be perfect & do things “the right way”. Anything less is unacceptable. That is pure nonsense. God doesn’t condemn us so why should we listen to others harsh words? I know I’ve failed tons in my years. That hasn’t stopped God from loving & forgiving me. We need to stop being so hard on ourselves & just be the best Christian-fill in the blank we can be.
That’s right, Beth. Thank you for being here!
Tambla Birkheimer says
Very powerful writing!
Thank you so much for this beautiful read.
I agree whole heartedly with this life lesson. Only Jesus can change us from the inside out. He is our Redeemer, our friend who sticks closer to us than anyone else. Praise him for his saving grace and mercy!