“Which crayon do I use to color God?” asked Heather.
I began my teaching career in a third and fourth grade classroom in a small rural school in Clinton, Missouri. Fortunately, questions with this depth rarely needed an explanation from me or a textbook. The children usually took the conversation where it needed to go.
“Jesus is white,” insisted James.
“No, he’s not,” argued Matteo. “He’s tan.”
“How do you know?” inquired Amy.
“He’s white at my church,” replied James.
“Jesus is in your church?” she asked.
“No, there’s a statue of Jesus at my church,” explained James. “The statue is white. And so is Jesus.”
“That statue was thought up by an artist,” Michael mumbled. “That guy didn’t know what Jesus looked like. He just created a statue that looked like the Jesus he believed in.”
She dumped her box of crayons on the table, reminding me of a rainbow of paint that I mixed in babyfood jars for a picture of an elephant I created when I was five. At five, I felt no need to mix black and white paint to breathe life into the elephant’s grey skin. I chose red and yellow and brown and black and white because I liked them. No one said “Color between the lines” until I entered kindergarten where I learned the “correct” colors for skin.
What color was God? That was a tricky one. I never considered the question before, but today I heard plenty of answers.
While the children argued among themselves, Michael walked over to the world map on the wall and traced Israel’s boundaries with his finger. The land of milk and honey. The Promised Land.
“Jesus lived in Israel,” said Michael, “didn’t he, Miss Connor.”
It wasn’t a question. It was an invitation into a conversation.
“Yes, Michael,” I answered. “Jesus lived in Israel.”
Michael meandered to the window sill and picked up the globe and flashlight used for a lesson about sunlight and the equator. He placed the globe on the table in front of me and put the flashlight in my hand.
“Do it again, Miss Connor,” said Michael. “Talk about the sunlight and the equator. And people’s skin color.”
“The closer people live to the equator, the darker people’s skins get,” shouted James. “They’d be sunburned all of the time if they didn’t have dark skin.”
“Kinda like a permanent suntan,” laughed Alicia.
“Well, sort of like that,” I agreed. “In science class we call that …”
“Brown,” Michael interrupted, pointing to his own skin. “We call it brown.”
Man was created in God’s own image.
“What color is God, Michael?” I asked.
Wisdom often unfolds in questions – when I’m wise enough to listen by inviting answers from Divine sources. Like Michael.
“God’s whatever color He wants to be,” he happily replied.
The bell rang. The children lined up to go to recess.
Faith refers to an individual’s unshakable ability to fully embrace a conviction without need of physical proof. The Bible defines faith as the substance of things hoped for; the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1). Martin Luther King, Jr. believed, “Faith is taking the first step even when you can’t see the whole staircase.”
God transcends colors. We do not need to confine the Divine to shades between the lines.
God is. And, today, that’s all I need to know.
How does your faith shape who you are?
Politics, God, Race, Sex, and Other Controversial Topics Kids Discuss at School offers positive tips to prepare you for a lively conversation with young people.
How to Talk to Teens About Social Issues provides practical tips to listen and engage in dialogue with these tips.
Voices in the City School is a collection of stories written by urban teens that reflect the power of storytelling and the importance of building relationships with youth.
Find suggestions to more fully involve youth in your community: What You Must Do to Invite & Involve Youth (So They Want to Stay).