Theology in a Box of Crayons

“When was the last time you were really happy” read the writing prompt. And I was immediately transported.

Five years old, a box of round crayons from my grandma–was she there for my birthday? I don’t remember. But the crayons were many, more than the eight or sixteen usual ones, and the container was round, stiff and sturdy with a lid.

Something about it was magical. It stretched my idea of what was possible. Forty-eight magnificent colors, so much unencumbered possibility. What might I draw with these? What fun might I have? Who would stop me?

And they were mine, just mine, for me, not to squander over other people’s needs and feelings, nor to hand over indiscriminately out of pity or martyrdom or knee-jerk caregiving.

To use or not. To color my own life, so that I wouldn’t just be left with dreary shades of beige or gray, dusty, muted tones that never captured the depth of my own beauty. At five I somehow still knew that the colors were all mine and that that was ok.

It wasn’t until later that I started giving all my colors away. Or having them taken by force.

At seven I wrote my grandma a letter. The pictures, I said, were drawn in pencil, since my dad had taken our crayons away until Christmas, still three months away, after my three-year-old sister made the mistake of being a normal toddler and drew in crayon on our shared bedroom wall.

In an angry meting out of punishment I was made to pay for her “transgression”.  And we both paid a price. An early reason why the idea of substitutionary atonement no longer rings true for me.

At fifty-seven, I again own my own crayons, sixty-four this time, and they remind me that while it’s nice to share, it can be ok, necessary, in fact, to hold back something for yourself.

Jesus’ well-known commandment, to love our neighbor as ourself, holds out self-love, rather than self-hatred or self-sacrifice, as the gold standard by which to measure our love for others.

It sounds counter-intuitive, but perhaps it is true, that the surest route to a peaceful world is to learn to truly love ourselves first.

 

 

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