I was a quiet, compliant student and very attentive, especially when my teacher talked. I could have sat for hours listening to her voice, soaking it in. I was enamored by her and wanted to please her and wanted to be special to her.
Looking back, I think in the mind of a 9 year old I envisioned my mom through her. I knew that my mom had been from England and therefore she had an English accent even though I had never known her or heard her voice. She died when I was 6 months old and I was being raised by my aunt and uncle. Back then there were no video cameras so she was never recorded and I was left to only imagine her voice. All I had of her were a couple of blurry, black and white photos.
I remember the assignment vividly. We were to use our imagination and design and draw our own line of clothing. I was excited; finally I could do what I loved to do the most, which was draw. I would spend hours at home drawing, mostly horses and people….I could do this project!!
I eagerly began to design a girl wearing western wear. As a little girl who grew up on a farm surrounded by horses, my dream was to be a cowgirl and so this was perfect, I would design a cowgirl outfit, complete with cowboy boots and hat.
But I didn’t stop there! Along with the girl I drew a horse beside her….I was on a role! I thought why not, when I saw ads in the magazines I always noticed the extra props and images used, so why not add a horse to my design.
I colored very carefully both the model and the horse, outlining and filling in the best I could. I very proudly took it to her and placed it on her desk along with the other drawings from my classmates.
Later that day as we sat on the floor encircling our teacher I eagerly awaited her compliments on my drawing, thinking she would be impressed with my imagination and my talent.
But instead of the expected grand compliment she held up my picture for the class to see and proceeded to scoff at the fact that I had a horse included.
“Who puts a horse in the picture”, she said, “it doesn’t belong”. The class laughed and I was humiliated. I thought that adding the horse was complementary to the western wear I’d designed, but I was wrong, and I was embarrassed and humiliated and I was a failure.
That day as a little girl I vowed to never, ever, do anything that would bring attention to myself again.
I would always color inside the lines….I would always do exactly whatever was asked of me. Who did I think I was…..
Author David Seamands once wrote, “Children are the best recorders, but the worst interpreters.” I find this to be so true. As children we can often vividly remember smells, colors, moments, feelings and conversations…our memories may be clear but the meanings from those memories may or may not be.
That day in the classroom I “recorded” what happened. But the deep hurt and rejection I felt and the voice that spoke in my head telling me to hide and never bring attention to myself was a bad “interpreter”.
As a child, who wasn’t capable of reason as I am today, allowed my teachers words (as well as the words of others) to shape what I thought of myself and how I lived….. And if I am honest, although I can rationalize my teacher’s reaction as thoughtless or tactless, if I am honest I admit that I still struggle at times to not live in hiding, to color only inside the lines, to never bring attention to myself.
Some of you may wonder why one incident would make such an impact, but to the little girl who believed so many lies already, it was simply one more rejection…one more hope dashed, one more humiliation, one more negative response in a long line of abandonment and dismissals.
The little girl in grade 4 had already formed an image of herself….she saw herself as unwanted…she believed she was the little girl that nobody wanted. She believed the lie she was worthless. She lived as one at such a tender young age who already knew what striving meant. What performance looked like in order to gain approval.
As a little girl, I learned very early that I had to be perfect because when I wasn’t I paid for it. I learned to color inside the lines….And now years later as an adult, I am a woman who still wrestles at times to color outside the lines….to not want to hide, to let go of the striving to be the good girl, to be accepted and approved of. Even now there are times of not wanting to be known, fearing that people will think of me as stupid or wrong, that I am a poser after all.
Although my past has been sordid my present is predictable. It is a place that I feel safe…..hiding from the things I fear.
And though the drive to “color inside the lines” serves me well at times, it can sometimes be an obstacle to enjoying God’s grace and love.
Ephesians 2:8 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.”
The beautiful gift of Jesus is that he longs to call us out from behind the masks we wear, the lives of hiding and the lies we believe and into the hiding place of grace….
God created you and me to be something special, unlike anyone else who has or will ever live.
If you are a follower of my blog I do hope that you will join me as I unpack this whole area of hiding…of mask wearing…as I continue in my journey of shedding the heavy cloak of striving and running into the arms of Jesus, the ONE who offers me freedom…as He offers it to all of us…..
Don’t be afraid to dance when others sit on the sidelines.
Don’t be afraid to sing when the world tells you to be quiet.
Don’t be afraid to offer your voice when others demand silence.
Don’t be afraid to zig when others zag.
Don’t be afraid to color the world with your presence.
Don’t be afraid to color outside the lines.