Recently, while traveling down the interstate, I noticed a billboard that I had passed many times before yet never read. Big white letters stamped on a baby-blue background read, “Broken crayons still color.” At first, I only smiled and continued driving; but then, in the same way a warm breeze can bring back a long-lost memory of summer vacations, the big white words transported me back to a wooden table situated in a dimly lit dining room.
At that time, I was working as a children’s bereavement counselor for a local hospice organization. I often said that I was paid to play, but honestly, I learned some valuable lessons about life, love, and loss while coloring submarines and drawing dragons with grieving children. One case involved me meeting with a seven-year-old boy whose father had been murdered one week prior to our visit. This appointment vividly illustrated a lesson for me that I hope never to forget
As we sat there rummaging through my box of crayons looking for specific colors to complete our self-proclaimed masterpieces, my little friend and I discovered that many of my crayons were bent, broken, or bare. I had a bad habit of leaving my coloring box in the car on hot days. I should have remembered my childhood discovery that crayons don’t react well to heat. I had learned this the hard way as I scraped splattered crayon from the roof of my grandmother’s microwave after attempting to make finger paint in a Styrofoam bowl.
While apologizing that my crayons were in such poor shape, I remember casually saying, “I should probably throw all the broken ones away.” Immediately he looked at me with a confused expression, picked up a broken cherry red Crayola that was missing its wrapper, and said, “Why would you do that? Broken crayons still color!” Whether he realized it or not, I was dumbfounded. That seven-year-old had just preached one of the best messages I had ever heard in only a few simple words. While he continued to color, I sat there thinking about that fact that “broken” and “worthless” were not synonymous.
That day I went to counsel him, but he ended up doing far more for me. When I later saw that sign on the interstate and reminisced to what I had learned at my little counselor’s table, I couldn’t help but think about the broken, bent, and bare people that I encounter every day. I couldn’t help but wonder how many times others, like myself, had suggested throwing them away. I couldn’t help but wonder how many times Jesus, like the little boy, chose them as the perfect tool to complete His masterpiece.
We’re all flawed in different ways. Some of us have been bent by the consequential heat of our own choices, others have been broken, like a crayon snapped in half by the overbearing pressure of a preschooler, while others are as bare as a Crayola without a wrapper because of the inescapable wear and tear of life. Because sin exists, so do defects. They are an unavoidable part of being human. However, our defects do not have to define us. Even broken things can become useful again when placed in the right hands. My little friend didn’t let the crayons limitation limit him. He used it despite its faults to create something beautiful.
That’s exactly what God does with broken, bent, and bare lives that are placed in His hand. God sent His Son into the world not to condemn sinners, but to save sinners who were condemned already. Jesus did not come to judge us, but to justify us. God demands perfection–a state none of us could ever achieve. So, Jesus came and achieved it in our place. Furthermore, He not only did what we couldn’t; He suffered so we wouldn’t. When Jesus died on the cross, He was punished in our place. Our sins were placed on Him who knew no sin so that His goodness could be placed on us. This is what we call the gospel.
Jesus is the good news in the middle of our mess. He came to bring beauty from the tragic ugliness of sin. Looking back, I remember the final strokes my little friend added to his picture. I can still see him, tongue barely sticking out of the corner of his mouth, hard at work. When finished, he proudly held up his picture for my approval. I have to say it was the most beautiful red rose a seven-year-old boy ever imagined onto a sheet of paper; and the miracle was that it was all done with a half of a warped crayon that was missing its wrapper.
If you are reading this and you recognize your life looks more like my hodgepodge box of mixed up, messed up Crayola’s than it does a pack of new, unopened, and unused crayons right off the shelf, you are actually in a good place, not a bad place. You are just the color God is looking for. He didn’t come to help people who were well. He came to help people who were in need of a physician. If you’re broken, you are not helpless; if you’re bent, you are not useless; if you’re bare, you are not worthless. God makes His best masterpieces with tools that others considered to be a throwaway mess.
If you will come to Jesus, I guarantee you, He will come to you. If you will take Him at His word and trust Him for His forgiveness, He will take you as you are and change you into what you were meant to be. He will take the broken, bent, and bare parts of your life and restore them. Not only will He restore them, He will use them to create a masterpiece He can hold up and show His Father, a masterpiece that the Creator of color Himself will find breathtaking and be proud of. Jesus chooses, and Jesus uses the broken ones, because Jesus loves them too much to throw them away.
-Pastor Benjamin Webb