Harold and the Purple Crayon

In 1955, Crocket Johnson released a book titled “Harold and the Purple Crayon,” and it became a classic. It was followed by a short film in 1959 (you can watch it on YouTube, of course). The story is very simple:  a small boy, Harold, wishes to have an adventure. Wanting to take a moonlight walk but not seeing the moon, he draws it with his purple crayon on his wall, starkly white and infinitely long and which magically scrolls as his imagination takes him on a journey away from home, through a forest, across a sea, over a mountain, up-and-above in a balloon, into a big city, and finally back into his room, with the moon in its proper place in the frame of his window.

I thought of little Harold the other morning as I lay in bed. Having recently returned, after a 6 year hiatus, to Facebook, I’m reminded of the many voices speaking to us about many things. Well, it’s been about 30 blog posts now and, I believe, in all but one my focus has been on God, primarily in regard to my faith as I journey with cancer. I considered this morning if I could think of something different to talk about, something creative but not spiritual, perhaps a fictional story. But, like Harold’s crayon drawing scenes from his imagination, my mind wandered from people, places, and ideas, none captivating me, or it idled thoughtlessly, like Harold dragging his crayon in a line across the wall until he conjured the next scene.

Then my sort of image struck me: Harold drawing me a single, purple dot on his wall. This is where my imaginary adventure begins. I put my finger to the dot and push through it. Then a finger from the other hand and I begin to open up a hole. With both hands now, I spread the hole wide enough to stick my arms and then my head through to the other side. I pull myself completely into the dark void behind Harold’s wall. In absolute blackness I reach out for objects to cling to or to at least guide me as I move. Finding nothing and feeling anxious, I run my hands over my face and chest to be assured that I’m still here. I realize that in this world it’s either me and nothing or it’s me and one infinite something.

My family and my wife will tell you that to some degree I’ve always been this way, before cancer and even before I made the decision to follow Christ. That from inside of me comes a longing to talk about realities beyond our current condition. That there is more to life than just the scene and the players. And this is why I write about God–He captivates me. My longing comes from a feeling inside me, where another void exists and in which I have my entire life groped around searching for something real to fill it. To use an argument I learned from CS Lewis, why would I feel an emptiness inside me if there weren’t something to fill it?

For me, the infinite something is God, and this is how I see the tiny world in which we live. Even if all the universe were to fall away, there would still be God. He is His own canvas, which, unlike Harold’s, is infinite in dimension and exhibits all of the richness that He imagines. And thus everything is under his dominion. Our most brilliant works, be they art, written words, great cities or technology, are really just collections of His atoms that we’ve coalesced into something we think matters. And, yet, they are all destined to disappear with the same inevitability that awaits a sandcastle. If anything can last forever, it isn’t our works but our souls.

With the time that I’ve been given, I seek to find the purpose for which I was created. A bird born in a nest becomes a nest maker. The ant is born to its role in its colony. The trees have no wish to walk or fly. All of creation, aside from us, knows its true purpose, mundane and artless, and yet in it we acknowledge order and find beauty. Are we different? Are we meant to find our purpose apart from our Creator?

I just can’t escape Him. Regardless of the adventure, wherever I am and whatever I’m doing, be it the routines of home-life or work, vacationing on the coast, sitting under an umbrella transfixed by the sound and repetition of waves or somewhere in high altitude, mountains stretching past the limits of sight, and even, no, in particular, around people, I know God is there and I’m meant to glorify Him. I am part of something much bigger and something eternal. All of my friends and family, coworkers, neighbors, and strangers have eternal value. I therefore treasure moments with loved ones beyond the mere comfort or pleasure of the activity in which we are engaged.

So if you’re with me, and you see me wander away in wonder, know that I’m probably thanking God for the moment we’re sharing or wishing I could say something about Him so we could. Either way, we’re basking in the glow of His Light.

Let me share with you Psalm 139, verses 1-14.  

O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
    you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
    and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
    behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before,
    and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
    it is high; I cannot attain it.

Where shall I go from your Spirit?
    Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
    If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
If I take the wings of the morning
    and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
10 even there your hand shall lead me,
    and your right hand shall hold me.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
    and the light about me be night,”
12 even the darkness is not dark to you;
    the night is bright as the day,
    for darkness is as light with you.

13 For you formed my inward parts;
    you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
    Wonderful are your works; 
    my soul knows it very well.


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