If We Have Died With Christ, We Shall Also Live With Him
“Through the power of the Holy Spirit we take part in Christ's Passion by dying to sin, and in his Resurrection by being born to a new life.” (CCC 1988)
When I was a kid, I didn’t know how to skate, bike, swim, or even run. The street games typically played by city kids were beyond either my ken or my ability, and sometimes beyond both. My pastime of choice was being sedentary. But, let me tell you, when it came to coloring in coloring books, I was an absolute boss.
So one spring, when my mom and I found out that the local Woolworth’s five-and-dime store was holding an Easter-themed coloring contest, we hurried to Woolworth’s to pick up one of the booklets specially designed to be colored and submitted by entrants. For the next couple of weeks, I spent hours Crayola-ing images of bunnies, chicks, and eggs with surgical precision. I tried to create different effects with my crayons by using bold strokes here, a light hand there. I layered complementary colors in an effort to capture the shades that I could imagine, but could not find in my Crayola box. And I stayed inside the lines as scrupulously as if a stray stroke of Carnation Pink would bring down Christendom.
One afternoon, when I had colored only half of the pages in the booklet, my brother Joe informed me that the Woolworth’s contest deadline was that day. Maybe my mom had forgotten to note the deadline. Maybe I, at age 10, wasn’t astute enough to have noted it myself. In any event, my unfinished booklet would not qualify as a contest entry, and there was no chance of my completing it before the end of the day. What made matters worse was that the pages I had colored were, in my opinion, absolutely splendiferous. I’d never colored so beautifully, nor with such a resolve to do my best.
I was heartbroken. But my savvy big brother was hopeful. “Why don’t you give me the booklet?” Joe suggested. “I’ll take it to Woolworth’s and explain what happened. Maybe they’ll let you be in the contest anyway.”
I don’t remember what I did with my dejected self after giving Joe the booklet, but I do remember Joe walking in through the front door a couple of hours later. He was holding a box, and the box was … cheeping.
“The people at Woolworth liked your coloring so much that they gave you a prize anyway,” Joe said. “And here it is.”
He handed me the box, which held six fluffy yellow — or “Goldenrod,” as Crayola would have it — chicks. I was thrilled. It wasn’t so much about the chicks, though my brothers and I would have a wonderful time playing with the little darlings in our backyard. What really delighted me was that, instead of my work being considered and found wanting, it had been recognized and rewarded.
It wasn’t until years later that I realized that Joe had never delivered my half-colored booklet to Woolworth’s. Instead, he’d gone to the local pet shop and, following the instructions my dad had given him, bought six chicks to give me as a “contest prize.”
There’s no doubt that my coloring contest entry, notwithstanding the starry-eyed assessment of my youth, was far from perfect. Yet, as deficient as my efforts were, my dad had found them worthy of reward.
That’s how it is with our Heavenly Father. Yes, he sees the good deeds we leave unfinished, the deadlines we don’t meet, the missteps that take us “outside the lines.” But it’s on our resolve to “do our best” that he fixes his merciful gaze. No matter our shortcomings, each one of us can hope “to obtain the joy of heaven, as God's eternal reward for the good works accomplished with the grace of Christ” (CCC 1821).
Merciful Lord, let me resolve this day to do all for your glory. Help me to remember that you can use even my feeblest efforts in the accomplishment of your works. If I stumble and fall, allow me not to become discouraged, but instead, place my trust in your promises.