Going over the lines


When I was young, another child would sometimes let me fill in a page of her colouring-in book.

As she handed me the crayons, there would be the warning, “Don’t go over the lines!”

I always did.

In spite of good intentions, a crayon would slip, or I’d try to improve the picture by adding a sun or moon or some flowers, and then I’d be in trouble.

I guess I’m the sort of person who has always gone over the lines, and sometimes there has been disapproval from people who are neat and tidy.

There is no right or wrong about this; it’s just the way God made us.

I admire the tidy people who create order in the world, and I sometimes envy their gift of staying within boundaries.

Those in my camp, often trip over lines in their enthusiasm and end up with faces in the mud, which is not the best place to be.

Still, there is consolation in the number of characters in the Bible, who messed up. Even great leaders got in the mud somewhere along the way.

There was Jacob who cheated his brother Esau, Moses who had to run away after killing an Egyptian, David who took another man’s wife. All of that was dramatic mud.

Then in the Gospels, we have Peter the classic example.

Time and time again, his eagerness to do the right thing took him over the edge into error.

Fortunately, Jesus understood him.

Actually, Jesus was very understanding of people who made wrong choices.

The only lines he himself went past, were lines that were crooked and false.

He loved the people who were not afraid to be human, and if they made mistakes, he invited them to learn from their error.

Mud is good stuff for new growth.

Perhaps Jesus most popular parable is the story of the two sons and the loving father.

Was one son better than the other?

No, they were simply different.

While one was happy to stay home, working on the land, the other was restless, wanting to know what the world out there was like.

He soon found out.

The world was quick to relieve him of his money, and he ended up with a job feeding pigs.

Why pigs?

We remember that pigs were unclean to the Jews, and this suggests the lad had really hit rock bottom.

The hero in the story is the father.

He knew his sons were different and he loved them equally.

This is where we come into the parable, so glad that difference doesn’t matter to God who embraces us all with the same abundant love.

With a bit of practice, maybe I too, will see past differences.

People who go over the lines and people who stay within them, are equally God’s favourites.

It’s a great parable.

Well, maybe not great for the fatted calf; but that’s another story.

  • Joy Cowley is a wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and retreat facilitator.
  • Image: RNZ
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