Sleep on This: Color blind? Yuck.
Good evening, friend!
A year ago, Cyndi and I celebrated our 30th anniversary with a trip to the Big Island of Hawaii. One of our anticipated adventures was a drive up Mauna Kea for world-class star-gazing. We parked in one of the lots and walked up a nearby peak to join others in waiting for the sun to set and the stars to appear.
There was, of course, no artificial light up there. So, the darker it got, the less I could make out the features of my fellow star-gazers. Finally, it was black enough that you really could not see each other, although we continued to chat cordially. I remember thinking how unusual it felt to have pleasant conversations with people I could not even see. Then, the mystery of that moment would be shattered when someone took a flash selfie, and, for a second, I could see what they looked like. I confess, a couple of times I thought, “Wow…they look weirder than they sound.”
In other words, one of the surprising gifts of that night was discovering what it meant to get to know someone BEFORE discovering what they looked like. Because, the moment the light flashed, I immediately categorized them by appearance. I didn’t mean to. I just did. I don’t think it changed the way I spoke to them…I hope not. But as long as I could not see my star-mates, I could not put them in a box.
As I think about the racial unrest that still broils around us, I honestly do not know whether it is possible to be “color-blind.” I don’t even know if it is good. On the one hand, wouldn’t it be wonderful if the color of one’s skin never even entered the mind of one doing a job interview? In either direction? Carry out the interview in a dark room, make your decision, make the hire, turn on the lights, and be surprised!
On the other hand, isn’t color one of the great delights of life? Cyndi’s birthday was Tuesday and she was surprised with several bouquets of beautiful flowers that we continue to enjoy. If we believe that all of God’s variegated creation is an expression of his divine whimsy, shouldn’t the infinite varieties of skin tones be yet one more reason to praise the wonder of God’s handiwork? And certainly NOT be the reason that we categorize, despise, or dismiss someone?
The Bible certainly doesn’t hold up a monochromatic ideal. Revelation 7:9 offers a glimpse of a glorious, multi-colored worship service at the end of time: “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
Last year in Israel, I got a foretaste of this. We went to the traditional baptismal site of Jesus and met hundreds of other pilgrims waiting to renew their baptisms. Every color, hue, and tongue was on display. All of them clothed in white robes and singing, together, in praise to the God who made us one. It was cacophonous bedlam—but it was holy and sweet bedlam. And it certainly wasn’t boring!
I really don’t want color blindness; THAT sounds boring. But this glimpse of a time when our variety unites us instead of dividing us—I would love to see more of that, wouldn’t you?
Lord, as I lay me down to sleep, I ask you to change the way I look at people. If I am quick to judge one’s appearance, please, convict me of that and forgive me! Deliver me from superficiality. Teach me to delight in the variety of your creation AND to look past skin tone to discover the person within. Amen.