musings on adult coloring & christian perfection

This post is dedicated to my fellow coloring friends; my sister, Shari, the Rev. Justin White, Kelle, and future coloring fanatic, Tara. You inspire me to attempt staying in the lines.

Adult coloring books have become a thing, I’m over a year late to the party. If my memory serves me right, they have been a prayer practice of my seminary friends for a few years before that. But I avoided coloring, like the plague, beyond needing and purchasing color pencils for my Art & Reconciliation class last summer.

I liked coloring growing up, but never managed staying in the lines as much as I wanted to. In fact, I distinctly remember hating using watercolors in coloring books because I couldn’t control where the color ended up. Eventually I gave up on art because I thought that I wasn’t good enough. The perfectionist in me beat out the artist in me.

Finally an impulse purchase landed me with an adult coloring book while waiting to board my plane home from Phoenix last week. The person in front of me was taking forever (okay as I wasn’t in a rush) while I was waiting to buy water and coconut water (another impulse purchase). All around the register were adult coloring book kits that included the pages and the color pencils. I laughed as I brought my purchases back to my friend who was also on my flight, but proceeded to color from Phoenix to Seattle.

Coloring isn’t any easier as an adult, especially the darkness of the plane at night and not having enough color pencils to make it look good. I kept going outside of the lines, didn’t like how it looked color-wise, and frankly wasn’t sure if this was for me. Coloring outside of the lines isn’t fun for this perfectionist.

Yesterday, I decided I wanted to color outside in the sun after a week of my new coloring book kit living in my backpack. I found my other colored pencils from last summer and began round two. As I basked in the warm Seattle sun with Mount Rainier out and Lake Washington feet away, my soul was quiet and happy. I realized I needed to be comfortable with coloring outside of the lines. That it wasn’t important, it was the process.

After a few hours of coloring in the sun, it was time to go to church, after I returned home I did some more coloring when I realized, my pages were double-sided, with the same pattern. I knew they were, but didn’t realized I could have a redo with the designs. I could learn from my “mistakes” and color better. I could perfect my coloring.

Wait, perfecting something beyond legislation? (Sorry to all my non-UMC readers.) It hit me: coloring is theological and very Wesleyan. Try as I might to avoid theological books for a few months post-seminary, I had one right in front of me and I got to fill it in. Wesleyan theology is a grace-based journey.

We start with the grace we are given no matter what (prevenient) which is like how one’s parents love anything we color. Then to the grace we discover when we chosen to love God back (justification) as we grow and slowly create more types of coloring, knowing it’s good, but we want to live into being a better artist, turning over the page. As we continue to live grace and follow the radical gospel message we move towards Christian Perfection (sanctification), a right relationship with the Divine, and maybe staying inside the lines or finding the best color combination. (Please note, still working on my metaphor.)

As I move towards perfecting my coloring, I am noticing that the end product isn’t what matters, it’s how I get there. How I think and dream as I color, as I am able to sometimes empty my mind, that I can color in silence with a good friend, and how it weirdly soothes my soul.

Coloring is a reminder that it’s not the destination, but the journey. The goal is a good looking piece of art (well, for me its art), but the process is more important. I’m never going to stay completely in the lines, but I may be able to make a flower thing look more owl-like or incorporate more bright colors the second time around. The more I color, the more it becomes second nature, the more I love forward.

Now, it’s time to go back to coloring.

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