Coloring outside the lines

It seems that Christmas is a time for expectations.  Some that are met, and some that are unfortunately not.  However, I've been thinking a lot about the 'unfortunately' part of that sentence and wondering to myself if I've been misdirecting some of my own time and energy.

As a caveat before I begin, I will say this: I do believe in change. I do believe that even people, habits and hearts can change.  I believe that is why we are here roaming about on this earth; to change ourselves into better beings.

My thoughts have been directing me to a different understanding of change and expectations in these last months.  Maybe it's a product of getting older and realizing how much I just want people to love me despite my many shortcomings.  I know I have shortcomings, maybe I know it better than anyone because I live with them, like obnoxious little critters that nip at my ankles, and I also know better than anyone how much I want to make those shortcomings into good things, like butterflies that circle around my head.  I guess what I'm realizing then is that if I feel that way, it's pretty likely that other people feel the same way about their very own selves.  We don't usually sit down and talk about our weaknesses face to face.  Maybe we all should, but we just don't.  We sometimes talk about them without the faulting party present, which doesn't seem all too productive either.  I'm learning though that it is safe to assume that people are trying their best, and maybe it isn't my place to fret and push and insist that they become or do things the way it seems best to me.  Am I being vague?

A short illustration:  When Carl and I lived in my parent's basement for a year, we shared a kitchen.  Said kitchen was not a lustrous place of recycling and I made it a habit, as if I couldn't help myself, of going through the trash and pulling out every cardboard cracker box, milk carton, empty coke can, hardly used paper towel and separating them into a bag under the sink.  The bag fell out every time anyone opened the cupboard and I'm sure it was annoying to everyone that I insist that we recycle, even if I had to take it upon myself to see to it that we did.  Yes, recycling is important.  I still believe that.  I once spent a summer going to door to door in Provo trying to convince people to order a blue recycle bin (an activist story from my youth that I'm sure I will one day tell my children).  However, in coming back home for Christmas break, I have found myself wanting to separate the trash, but realizing that maybe other things are more important.  This is not to say that I don't have a stash under the sink, but I've been a little more subtle about it.  I've stopped lecturing my family on stewardship, because honestly, i don't think that is what they need right now.  I don't want my zealousness for recycling to get in the way for my stewardship over my family.  Replace stewardship for charity.

The recycling thing is just a small example of me attempting to re-align and re-evaluate expectations.  I'll share one more image that's been coming to mind.  When I think of people, I think of a drawing of them, like one you would find in a coloring book.  When I go to color this person in, I initially think that I have to color them all within the lines, with even strokes and reasonable colors.  Really though, those lines I've created in my head are simply my expectations and maybe they are hindering both me and the people I love.   I've never been one to do things just by the rules, and further, there never were any rules on the opening page of a coloring book that said, "please make sure to color perfectly and carefully within the lines."  Nope, never saw that, and never had anyone tell me I had to do it that way.  This Christmas season I am working on simply loving people, and not waiting until they fulfill expectations that they probably don't even know I have for them until I love them.  It's fine to do a lot of coloring outside the lines, even when you didn't expect to.  It is fine to love people enough to want them to change, but I am learning it has to go in that order.  I'm learning to push aside heavy black lines that hover and box us in, because I don't always know best.  I'm finding joy with people I love, and that makes for a good Christmas this year.

1 comment:

Shelly said...

I really love this, Ash. I totally relate to everything you write, you know. And I like that if you were thinking of drawing me that you wouldn't stay within the lines -- and no reasonable colors! Makes me happy.