Coloring Inside the Lines

Every time the disciple started establishing rules – no children near Jesus;  don’t let the crowd touch Jesus; don’t talk to Samaritan women; don’t let people waste expensive perfumes – Jesus told them to knock it off, and His rebuke was usually followed by a lecture that said, “You still don’t get it! We are not substituting religious rules with our rules. We are substituting religious rules with Me!” Jesus kept saying “Follow Me,” not “Follow My rules.” Most of us have spent our Christian lives learning what we can’t do instead of celebrating what we can do in Jesus. What a tragedy. What a misunderstanding of who Jesus is.   ~ Michael Yaconalli

When I was little, I loved to color but I was always careful to never color outside the lines. Following the rules was so important to me that I took my crayon and outlined inside the lines before I would begin to color the picture. I was desperate not do it wrong.

I carried that mindset into my adult life. While others found the lines to be constraining and stifling, I liked knowing exactly what I was supposed to do and how to do it. I saw following the rules as a simple equation: good behavior = a good person.

It’s not surprising that I joined a church rife with rules. I lived life almost entirely by rules – a mix of church rules, family rules, community rules and several random rules that I made up myself, just to be safe.

Because it was safety I was seeking. Safety from ever making a mistake; safety from letting others down; safety from condemnation and criticism; safety from being anything short of pleasing.

Then one day I found myself looking at a picture that was just an outline of a life, re-outlined by me, but always waiting to be colored.

Jesus kept saying “Follow Me,” not “Follow My rules.” Most of us have spent our Christian lives learning what we can’t do instead of celebrating what we can do in Jesus. What a tragedy. What a misunderstanding of who Jesus is.

Author: Debbie

A former counselor and public speaker, I'm grateful for many, many things - God's grace most of all!

45 thoughts on “Coloring Inside the Lines”

  1. I like your blog. You are a great writer and really appreciate your honesty and how you show real life application from what you’ve learned in your personal journey with Christ 🙂

    1. Hello BAM (love the name!)
      Thank you!
      I’ve been writing this blog for just over a year and I’ve almost quit several times.
      When I started it I was on a “grace crusade”.
      But the more I wrote, the more I realized that I’m the one that has the lessons to learn.
      I look forward to your thoughts in the days ahead.

      1. I find that when I am writting something, it’s benefit is really for me. Not in a selfish way, but in a way that God teaches us about ourselves. Hopefully that is something we can get accross for those who are reading our blogs. All in all, I really find your thoughts and insights right on. It definitely speaks to me and gets me thinking about how I can apply what you are saying to me life 🙂 I’m all about learning, applying, sharing and then starting the process all over again!

  2. I give this 500 stars~!!! and love the other message in there – “I have a Holy Spirit and you’re not it!” There is so much to Him and He breaks the rules!

    1. Judi –
      Heidi had schooled me well in the H.S. department. 😉
      Jesus was really quite a rebel wasn’t He? Not too much like the sweet guy carrying a lamb around all the time in my Sunday School pictures.
      And thank you for the stars! I’ve never gotten more than 4 1/2 before! 😀

  3. i’ve always liked coloring within the line, no surprise to you I am sure. I would trace the outline with heavy color and then I could gently and a bit swiftly fill in the colors. The heavy outside border kept me to the inside when I would gently rub up against it. Hmmmm something to ponder.
    Thanks Debbie, I think.

    1. Chris –
      I’m not a bit surprised to learn we colored the same way. You describe it perfectly! And wasn’t it great fun once the re-lining was done and we got to actually color the picture!
      I’m pretty sure we needed those lines for many of the same reasons.
      And, your welcome, I’m sure! 😉

  4. You are so right Debbie! When I was in the hospital after a stroke….my therapists gave me a picture to color….but I soon grew frustrated because I could not color within the lines….looking back..I see how I should have been thanking God I could move once again and even hold a marker in my hand! We need to be happy Jesus came and abolished the rules of religion with himself so all we have to do is believe in him as our one true hope!

    1. Hello PP!
      Thank you so much for stopping by TMG!
      I can’t begin to imagine the frustration you experienced.
      Retrospective gratitude is still gratitude. 😀
      I’m thankful you’ve recover and that we can rejoice together that Jesus replaced the mindset of religiosity with the realness of His love and grace!

  5. i love this it’s so true! maybe that’s why i like abstract art so much! i grew up with strict controlling religious rules and an abusive religious family. thank you for visiting my site!

  6. Hello, my friend! I’ve tagged you in a “blogathon.” Don’t feel obligated to follow “the rules,” if you don’t want to. Just paying tribute to my enjoyment of your blog.

    1. Jeff –
      Oh Buddy, that’s a lot of 11’s.
      I’m not sure I can pull all of that together.
      I appreciate your kind words and I’ll give it a go and see…
      (I’m a very, very slow writer) 😀
      Does that count as 1?

  7. That’s an oft quoted line from Yaconelli for me – Jesus kept saying “Follow Me,” not “Follow My rules.”Of course you know it’s one of my favorite books. He has contributed much to my understanding of grace as do you in your writing and living it out. Thank you!

    1. Debby –
      Thank you so much for introducing me to Yaconelli!
      Even though you’d mentioned him several times, it took you putting the book in my hand to get me to read him.
      He’s contributed much to my understanding of grace as well – as do you, my friend! 😀

  8. Debbie– “Because it was safety I was seeking. Safety from ever making a mistake; safety from letting others down; safety from condemnation and criticism; safety from being anything short of pleasing.”

    Safety was overrated, I’d guess! And here you are blogging… 🙂 One in 10 will coyly oppose you, instruct you, show you the lines again… I’m glad for you that it doesn’t matter anymore. Keep telling your truth. It’s refreshing.

    1. Oh Heidi –
      You know me well.
      You honed in on that tender part of my past – always trying to please and do it “right”. The obvious problem was that I was so focused on staying out of trouble that I lost myself altogether.
      As for others attempting to redraw MY lines – I have this great sentence I picked up from my best friend. I fall back on it when that kind of thing happens. Meaning I think it, I can’t really imagine ever saying it, but I think:
      “I have a Holy Spirit and you’re not it!”
      Which really was the heart of my problem all along. I listened to everyone but the Holy Spirit.
      That really is a great sentence by the way – thanks! 😉

  9. I love analogies, and you always have the best ones. This is so awesome. It brought so many thoughts to my mind that I can’t even sort them out to type them. How wonderful that you can get minds thinking so. I’ll bet that’s why Jesus used parables. 🙂

    1. Hello Lori!
      I’m much more likely to remember a point if I have a word picture or a story to hang it on so that’s the way I talk/write.
      Thank you for your exceptionally kind words.:D
      Great point about Jesus.
      He was a masterful storyteller and knew that those who heard would be puzzled by His parables, which kept them thinking!
      And they still keep us thinking!

  10. The end of that quote really stopped me, gracious one. You’ve given me something to pray about and get out my crayons for, as I do. Often for me, there isn’t a lot of time to think . .. just do. So thank you for helping me pause and think about if I am following Jesus . . .or rules . . .before I take off again. Love and prayers! God bless you as you color like Him, richly , fully , gracefully, over every inch of the page!

    1. Debbie –
      I find ‘our rules’ to be like Cliff notes… not at all the same as reading the book – but way quicker. You get the general idea and miss much of the heart.

  11. Brilliant as always! I couldn’t do my paintings now if it were for “the lines”. Don’s daughters are VERY EXACTING in how to sketch and paint. Their sketches look like photographs. I like the BLURRR~

    However, as a child, I was the same way, never color out side and the lines … and today i have to be mindful of those lines as well.

    RE my “childhood”, traditional religion drawing inside the lines was required, if not punished (if one “drew” outside the lines). As with my adult life, and painting those “line rules” are changing. Can i get a big AMEN!!! xx

  12. What an awesome post — what an awesome description of the fetters of legalism. Wow, Debbie. A color book full of pictures with just the outlines of the colors filled in. Empty, But correct.
    And built on fear.
    I am amazed. This is so revealing.
    And perfect love casts out fear. (Oh, HOW do we do perfect love? How do we color in the only the outlines of love? Ha.)
    How I LOVE His law because by it, He warns me! His rod and His staff — they COMFORT me! LOVE is the FULFILLING of the law.
    How else could our righteousness exceed (exceed? Yes, He said it: exceed!) that of the Pharisees, who kept every law nearly perfectly, out of fear?
    No, it is only by keeping His will with energy of freedom born of love that we can even begin to grasp the reasons for His laws.
    Ah, the freedom born of love. Mmm . . .

  13. By definition, I’m a rule breaker so I appreciate rules for a different reason – so I can know how to best break them! 😉 [Just the little ones …. climbing into a park after hours was a fun one that I did with my kids!]

    He gets that though. He expects it of us … or the cross would have been for naught. He’s more interested in the condition of my heart than in the functions of my decision-making frontal lobes! Follow Me, He says. Give Me your heart and allow Me to live in yours!

    If it’s really that easy (and it IS), I’m in!

    1. Amy –
      Oh now wouldn’t that be something to be a natural rule breaker? I can’t imagine…
      I wished I’d taken my two over a fence after hours!
      You got my point exactly – it’s the heart of the matter that matters!
      Thank you for laying it all out! 😀

  14. Yep, I was very rule-bound all my life–for the reasons you stated: safety, wanting to be “good” and please others. These days, I celebrate the Can-Do Jesus. Freedom IN Him is a Joyful experience. Love you Sis Debbie–forever Caddo sis

  15. So well said, I also liked rules…sort of. I rebelled against rules and in a way still do, guess that is why I am self employed! At the same time, I wanted to know the rules, so I could know the expectations. Along with that, I always wanted to know well in advance how to do something so that I would not make a mistake and look stupid. Still suffer from that…

    But in Christ, those things are not required. Perfection is not required, in fact the people God chose to do His work tended to be the exact opposite of the nice rule following folks!

    God does have rules for us to follow, but number one is to love…Him and then others. God’s mercies are new every morning, and boy am I thankful for that!

    Great post graceful one

    1. Greg, my friend –
      It’s amazing how easily we can begin to pile on our own rules and regs and those of others until we really don’t have to do all that much thinking or praying because it’s all be done for us.

      The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease,
      For His compassions never fail.
      They are new every morning;
      Great is Your faithfulness.

      I’m so very thankful, too! As always, thank you for being here and for sharing your heart!

  16. You are so spot on Debbie. I did the same thing for years, putting more burdens on myself that Jesus never intended. His truth really does set you free. Well written post. Thanks for sharing.


    1. Hello Francine!
      It’s taken me a long to time realize how much I’d taken on that He not only didn’t require, but wasn’t honored in.
      The truth was always there, but I wasn’t free because I didn’t seek it above the din.
      Thank you for your kind words and constant encouragement!

    1. I love Michael Yaconalli’s perspective on grace!
      He really got it.
      This quote was from his book, Dangerous Wonder.
      Thank you so much for stopping by TMG!

  17. Amen! God’s will is so much bigger than we imagine it to be… He is holy and righteous, but He gives us His Spirit to teach us and to guide us into a holy life. We get so caught up in the “Thou shalt nots” that we end up falling again and again, when if we would just spend our time walking in the Holy Spirit, we would experience a life of joy and peace, and we would find that we don’t fall as often. Then, we wouldn’t spend so much time condemning ourselves when we do occasionally fall.

    1. Hello cs and welcome to TMG! 😀
      So spot on!
      Not only would we spend less time condemning ourselves, I think we’d find we didn’t have any time left to condemn others!
      Thanks so much for being here and for sharing your thoughts!

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