“We must become bigger than we have been: more courageous, greater in spirit, larger in outlook. We must become members of a new race, overcoming petty prejudice, owing our ultimate allegiance not to nations but to our fellow men within the human community.”
– Haile Selassie
During my time as a school board employee, I was privileged to work with a diverse group of students. Amanda was one of them. And she was hilarious.
Amanda was a freshman, about 5′ flat and maybe weighed 100 pounds, soaking wet. But what she lacked in height and weight, she made up for in personality.
I think we all probably know that one person who can’t whisper. Amanda was that student. She wasn’t a bad kid, she just stayed in trouble for being too loud. And having no filter. If the child thought it, she announced it to the world. I get it. I was that kid. And as a result, Amanda was one of my favorites.
During finals week, Amanda was exempt from her Health exam, so she sat quietly and colored a picture. Quiet was not the norm for this girl. Curiosity got the best of me, and I rolled my chair over to her desk to see what she was coloring.
“What are you working on?” I asked. She giggled, “A tree, dummy!”
Friends, it was awful! The green marker had been splattered all over that tree, extending far beyond the lines. “Amanda, ever heard of staying inside the lines?” I asked, sarcastically. Her response? “That’s pretty stinkin’ boring.” I grinned because my favorite funny girl had no idea she had just written a blog.
There are those of us who draw the lines and there are those who don’t even see them. The boundary makers and the line jumpers have been at odds since the beginning of time. It’s predictable, easy, and reasonable to stay inside the lines. But to look past the lines, to see more than meets the eye, takes creativity, courage, and whimsy.
To many people, the lines are a must. A rule. A requirement. There is no other option. To cross the line would be unquestionable and unpardonable.
To others, the lines are simply one person’s perspective: a suggestion. Not a “have-to”, and “pretty stinkin’ boring”!
With the start of a new year, there are countless opportunities to expand our horizons. To reimagine church and family. To throw cultural norms to the wind, and use our politics to include rather than force out.
Coloring outside the lines doesn’t mean we buck the system just to be a rebel. We don’t make controversial statements, just for the sake of controversy. But it does mean that we aren’t afraid to ask the hard questions. Coloring outside the lines means that just because “it’s the way it’s always been done” doesn’t mean that it’s right.
Sometimes coloring outside the lines happens in simple ways, like making mud pies with our children on a Thursday afternoon when we’d much rather veg in front of the television. But it extends to larger opportunities, like going to the other side of the tracks to help a neighbor in need. And laying down our straight white privilege when we have the opportunity to speak for those whose voice continues to be ignored.
I pray that this year more than ever, in our public and private lives, that we become intentional about coloring outside the lines.
Steve Austin is an author, speaker, and life coach who is passionate about helping overwhelmed people learn to catch their breath. He is the author of two Amazon bestsellers, "Catching Your Breath," and "From Pastor to a Psych Ward." Steve lives with his wife and two children in Birmingham, Alabama.
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