Recently, one of the congregations I serve held an outdoor worship service at a local park. As part of the worship, I asked people to look at Creation and find something of God to share with the rest of the group, using Romans 1.20 as a springboard into the exercise. One of the participants chose to talk about the greens he was surrounded by. He was excited about God’s extravagance in creating so many shades of green.
While I could appreciate his excitement, I didn’t share his vision. I am colour blind and have difficulty recognizing green at all, let alone being able to see many different shades and variations of green–for me, there is maybe green and beyond that, a blob of indistinguishable colour.
But my physical disability doesn’t predispose me to black and white thinking. I like colour, even if I don’t see it well. In my photography, I have always preferred colour to black and white–and in life and theology, I much prefer colour to black and white. In fact, I have come to realize that even what I and others sometimes call grey is actually a riot of colour that is best appreciated when we are willing to put the effort into understanding it.
Any issue that some people want to make black and white and I have called grey is probably better viewed as a riot of shades of all the colours that some claim to actually see. And maybe our role as believers is to learn to embrace the colours of life, rather than try to reduce them to a simplistic black and white or less simplistic grey.
For me, the colours of life represent the stories and circumstances and happenings and pains and joys and heights and depths that make up a real life. To try and reduce an individual’s life to black and white denies the reality of that person’s life. To see it is shades of grey misses the vitality and aliveness of that life.
To see the colours of that life makes that life more understandable and approachable. It allows us to understand the person better, to celebrate the bright and lively colours and struggle with the dark and heavy colours. It gives us the opportunity to be used by God to introduce the colours of love and grace and hope that the Gospel offers, colours that can brighten and even replace the darkness of despair and confusion and pain.
The more I get to know people, the less I am concerned about the black and white issues that used to upset so many when I was in college. And, I have discovered, the more I discover and embrace the colours of an individual’s life, the better I am at becoming God’s agent in that life, being used by God to introduce even more colour into that life.
Life really can’t be reduced to black and white. Morality for some believers may seem like it can be made black and white but even morality cannot be made so simple and simplistic without doing theological and practical damage to the reality of life in general and individual lives in particular. And even more, trying to reduce life to black and white or even shades of grey takes love out of the picture. And, as I Corinthians 13.1-3 points out so clearly, without love nothing else matters.
So this has been my journey from my first encounters with black and white, moving on to grey and then to the discovery of the range of colours available. Real life is a riot of colours and shades and tones and hues. Many of these colours and shades and tones and hues I can’t see in the physical world–I probably can’t even describe them without resorting to a very scientific listing of wavelengths and so on, which sort of takes the colour out of the colour.
But I have been and am learning to recognize the wealth of colour in life, the shades and tones and hues that make up an individual’s particular life situation. I have been and am learning how God wants to introduce new colours into that life and how he can use colour blind me to be part of that process.
I am colour blind in many settings–but this blind person is learning how to really see others–and it is great to see the fulness of colour, even if it is only metaphorically.
May the peace of God be with you.