Joy Sylvester-Johnson: What Color Is God?

Joy Sylvester Johnson

One of my favorite presents as a young child was a new box of crayons. I liked the way the crayons were lined up like little soldiers with all their points intact and none of their paper clothes peeled away.

But, what good are crayons that remain pristine in the box? The joy of a new box of crayons was quickly discarded, for the thrill of actually coloring.

Recently a good friend lamented that for many people God is only experienced as black and white with no room for color.

I won the birth lottery having been born to parents who knew God was so much more than the popular dichotomy of a black and white God popularized by fundamentalism. As a result, I never considered or envisioned a black and white God. My God has always appeared in color.

And yet, for many years I continued to color God with the crayons found in a standard 8-piece box. And although those colors brought new joy each time I opened a new box, the colors were always the same: red, yellow, green, blue, brown, black, orange and purple.

Sometimes the 8 colors left me wanting. If only…

I remember how excited I was when I received a box of crayons including 64 different colors with exotic names like cerulean, indigo, and bluetiful.

I read recently there are now 152 crayon colors in a box! What might happen if I were to draw God using colors like periwinkle, manatee and burnt sienna?

I now know the expansion of crayon colors is limited only by our own imaginations. There’s always a new color on the horizon.

I feel the same way about my understanding of God. My theology (God talk) is only limited by the size of the box. The most interesting thing about this metaphor is that no one ever suggests that the original 8 colors are no longer needed or desired when more options are made available. They are still there. Red is still red and blue is still blue and even poor little yellow still has a place. The God I see today has all these colors but is not limited to only them.

I realize, as an adult, my theology is less like a new box of 8 and more like the large cookie tin where I kept all my used crayons—even the nubs of color with no paper remaining which meant I might not remember the name of the color I held.

I’m grateful.

My metal tin of crayons of all types and hues in varying condition is much more satisfying than a new box of 8.

Crayons are not meant to remain with points and paper intact. They are for coloring. And color, like God, is always expanding and most satisfying when being used to create.

Joy Sylvester-Johnson