Jeremy Statton

Living Better Stories

Color with a Broken Set of Crayons

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The only good part about the first day of school was the new box of crayons.

It was amazing to open up a brand new box. Each crayon was perfect. The tip was sharp. The wrapper in place. And usually, none of were broken.

It didn’t take long for the brand new box of crayons to become a used box of crayons. Broken. Dull. Naked. Incomplete.

This used box of crayons is what life often feels like to me.

Photo by Stephane Deschamp (Creative Commons)

The Empty Half of the Glass

Sadly, most of us have been given a used box of crayons to write our stories with.

We are trying to draw a beautiful picture. A picture of who we want to be. A picture of what we want to do. A picture of who we want to help and to love.

But our crayons suck.

Our box is so bad, no self-respecting preschooler would consider using them. We don’t feel we have been the tools we need to make it work. And then we complain about what we do not have.

We complain about the colors that are missing.

We complain about the dull tips.

We complain about not knowing the name of the color because somebody removed the wrapper.

We see our box of crayons as not good enough. We spend our time wishing for something else. We refuse to start coloring.

And as a result we miss out on the possibility that our used box of crayons present.

The Broken but Useful Half

If we shift our focus from what is missing to what we have, our perspective on this used box of crayons transforms.

Our questions change from, “Why are my crayons broken?” to “What can I do with my broken crayon?”

We can find good uses for the colors we do have.

We can sharpen dull tips.

We can see the beauty of the color that is normally hidden underneath the wrapper.

Pablo Picasso put it this way.

If I don’t have red, I use blue.

The blank page becomes an opportunity regardless of the status of the crayons. A chance to color. To draw. To create.

Which Half of the Box Do You See?

The empty half isn’t there. Those crayons are long gone. Looking for them is a lost cause. Complaining about them is a waste of time.

When we focus on what is missing from our lives we are unable to live a better story. We can’t paint in blue because we can’t stop thinking about red.

But we can do something with what we do have.

Lacking red now becomes an opportunity to discover the possibilities that blue has to offer. To develop different shades of blue. To paint a blue sky. To paint the ocean blue. To even paint a blue apple.

It is possible to create a masterpiece with a broken set of crayons.

In your life, do you stare at what you don’t have? Or do you see your own possibility?

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About Jeremy Statton

Jeremy is a writer and an orthopedic surgeon. When not ridding the world of pain, he helps you live a better story. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook or Google +.

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21 Replies

  1.  “It is possible to create a masterpiece with a broken set of crayons.”  And, I find this truth so incredible and so beautiful!!

  2. If it isn’t true, then we are all screwed aren’t we?

  3. In reading this, I can’t also help but think about the creative options opened up by melting crayons. You wouldn’t do that to a nice set. In fact, it seems that broken crayons are made for melting and reshaping, creating artwork differently than crayons were intended but nevertheless beautiful.

  4. Wonderful – I’ve posted a link to this on my blog. Too many people with mental health problems focus on what they don’t have, rather than on the possibilities with what they do have.
    Reminds me of the time I had several old, half-used paint boxes. I made some quite interesting pictures with them.
    I just love that Picasso quote.

  5. dluna

    So beautifully said and so true!

  6. Mary Beth

    My box of crayons are naked, abused, and taken advantage of yes I have gone through a lot but I do believe I have gone through alot but I do believe God can clothe my naked crayons and heal my hurts from the abused, and I can finally forgive the many that have taken advantage of me and God has forgiven me for all the hurts and abuse and whatever I have done to ignore GOd and to not love HIm like He wants me to love HIm. Praise GOd I am alive to leave this comment.

  7. Ann Morrill

    The choice to focus on what is good is not only wise (because of its many positive benefits) but Biblical.  Paul said (2 Cor. 10:5) that we are to “take every thought captive”.  When we understand that we can, and should, capture our thoughts, examine them, and choose what is helpful and good, we gain power to create a better place — a better story.  God not only gave us what is good — but deserves thanks for, and stewardship of His gifts.  Thank you for encouraging us in that direction.

    Ann Morrill

  8. Yesterday, my pastor preached about the woman in Mathew 15, who’s daughter got healed because she was persistent. 

    His disciples had dismissed her, Jesus too was not keen on her, saying ‘it is not good to take away the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs’

    The woman pressed on, saying  ‘even the little dogs eat of the CRUMBS which fall from their masters table’ (emphasis mine)

    Pastor was saying that whatever is found in the main food would also be found in the crumbs. The ingredients are the same.

    I so agree that we throw away and loose so many opportunities because we have our eyes locked on the ‘missing’ parts, forgetting that what we have in hand still works.

    I am learning to live a better story everyday. Grow in understanding that so long as they are crayons, they can still paint! 

  9. Patricia

    God uses our brokeness and creates beautiful things out of our lives. Perhaps we should be following God’s example. Perhaps, if given a chance, we should make beautiful things with our box of broken crayons.

  10. Isn’t it amazing what he can do with a broken set?

  11. I agree, Ann. Instead of seeing crayons as broken, they need to be seen as gifts.

  12. Me too. The issue is having a perspective of possibility. I need this more too.

  13. That’s a fun thought. You are less likely to melt them when they are perfect. Broken crayons free you up to do something different.

  14. You know I love this post since it deals with deciding what “we choose to FOCUS on.” This really used to be a battle for me, as I grew up around a lot of negativity and pessimism. However, once I became a follower of Christ, that is what ultimately changed my perspective. The Lord really had a tough case on His hands with me. Thankfully today I choose to use the colors He’s blessed me with. They may be used, dull, and even some may be broken into 2 pieces. Nevertheless they still color when we pick them up to use. I see it like this….I was broken and in many cases used and abused when the Lord picked me up and put me to work in His Kingdom. God uses the imperfect people to share His perfect love.

  15. Jeremy, only you can take an image of broken crayons and color the most vivid life metaphor from it. I have been given broken crayons. Crayons with torn paper, crayons melted from the sun, crayons used until they’re hard to hold in your hand. But I’m beginning to see the grace that’s involved, how even though I’m a box of mismatched and broken crayons, I’m still a box of useful crayons in a wild array of colors. If we all were boxes of perfect crayons, we’d all draw and color the same pictures. And God didn’t call us to be the same…He’s way too creative for that.

  16. I agree. If we weren’t different, would anything be beautiful?

  17. Jeremy, this is just what I needed to hear today. Thanks for smacking some sense into me this morning.

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