We came across the old clown as we were cleaning out our storage unit. Kevin and I laughed at the memory from years ago. He was just a little guy, maybe three or four years old. We were enjoying the craft time at our favorite campground, and young Kevin chose the ceramic clown as his painting project.
He quickly painted the ENTIRE clown a vibrant green- and then became dismayed at the result! This didn’t look like the clown he’d envisioned. I offered to repaint it and he seemed relieved by that. Soon I had the clown painted in different colors, “appropriate” colors, and well, it looked more like a clown. Kevin burst into tears. HE wanted to be the one to paint his clown! I reluctantly handed it back to him and watched as he hurriedly repainted the clown. Green. And he promptly burst into tears once again when it didn’t look like a clown.
This painting process was repeated several more times, much to the amusement of his older sisters. The clown was layered in green, multi-colors, green, multi-colors… with tears and frustration all along the way. Both Kevin and I became irritated, and since craft time was nearing the end, I finally refused to give it back to him for repainting. The clown has looked like the photo, an “appropriate” clown, for years.
Kevin never did like the clown; he never did find joy in remembering our time together that day.
Looking back, I wish that I would have simply encouraged him to keep the clown green. Even when he was sad that his clown didn’t look like a clown, I wish I would have pointed out the beauty of the green, the skills of his handiwork, and the uniqueness of his art. The green clown may have then become a treasured memory for him. I wonder if the green clown could have provided lessons for the two of us… lessons of learning to appreciate diversity, to see beyond our norms, to simply enjoy our craft, and to notice beauty in unexpected places.
God has created all of us to be our unique, diverse, perhaps out-of-the-ordinary selves. I wonder if we disappoint God when we choose to blend in, or follow the crowd, or be “appropriate.” I wonder if God is sad when we worry too much about our image, or when we allow others to dictate how we present ourselves. Perhaps God hopes that we would discern and discover our true selves, the way God envisions us. When we do, we might also discover the joy in diversity, the expansiveness of our nature, the gifts in our unique craftsmanship… and the beauty in everyone.