Coloring Outside the Box

It's time for another "favorite granddaughter" story (especially since after February I won’t have a "favorite granddaughter" anymore—I’ll have two of them—Ella’s going to have a sister!). Four-year-old Ella loves to color. So of course Papa and Grammy buy her a new coloring book every now and then. But the problem, if I might be quite candid about my granddaughter, is she hasn’t learned yet to confine her gloriously wild crayon colors to inside the lines. No kidding—she’s forever coloring outside the box. What’s up with that! Everybody knows you’re supposed to color inside not outside the box.

And yet it suddenly dawned on me this week that Jesus was no inside-the-box "colorer" either. Certainly not when it came to His prayer life. For years I’ve assumed that Mark 1:35 pretty much summarized His prayer routine: "Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went to a solitary place, where he prayed." He was an early morning Man. And yes, there are those other references to His praying in the night, sometimes all night in fact. But nighttime, early morning time—that was it, right?

Wrong. Take the afternoon He fed 15,000+ people with that unselfish little boy’s lunch of 5 loaves and two fish. Once dinner had been served and His disciples had collected and redistributed all the left over bread and fish, "after saying farewell to them, He went up on the mountain to pray" (Mark 6:46 NRSV). There He is, coloring outside His usual routine box of prayer, choosing to leave the crowd to spend some late afternoon or early evening time alone with His Father.

Which, of course, isn’t that momentous a headline to be sure. But that’s the point. It wasn’t a headline at all. It was the One we call Lord and Savior pushing away from the rest in order to make time for being alone with God. Outside the box of His prayer routine.

But isn’t that what prayer is supposed to be for you and me, too? Pushing away from the crowd, stepping out of the room, leaving friends or family, anytime you wish, anytime you sense the need—making time to be alone with God, alone with Jesus, alone with the Holy Spirit. Now we know it’s OK to color outside the box of routine prayer when you want to be alone with Him.

Because what’s so routine about time alone with the One who keeps your picture on His refrigerator, so crazy is He about you? No kidding—"See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called the children of God" (1 John 3:1 NIV). Love lavished on us—what’s not to love about that!

So the next time you sense His prompting, that quiet invitation to come be alone with Him to talk, do something really radical—color outside the box—and grab an unscheduled moment to sit alone with Him. One on one. That’s how life becomes a romance (as Oswald Chambers describes it) with the Dashing Young God of this universe. Alone. Outside the box. Just you and Him. Listening to each other.

"When every other voice is hushed, and in quietness we wait before Him, the silence of the soul makes more distinct the voice of God [who] bids us, 'Be still, and know that I am God.’ Psalm 46:10" (Desire of Ages 363).