Friday, July 25, 2014

Shades of Grey

There's a great conundrum in our present world, and that is this: too many of us only see in black and white. 

We want things, perhaps we need things, to be either right or wrong. Good or bad. Yes or no. This black and white thinking creates strongholds in our hearts. When we see something, or someone, as "good," we need the rest of the world to see it that way, too. When we believe something, or someone, is "wrong," we need them to actually be wrong, sometimes at the cost of truth. We want our "yes"es to be unqualified, and our "no"s to be firm. We seem to need things one way or the other, so we don't have to deal with the mess in between.

But life is in between. Life is in the mess. Life is drawn in shades of grey.

It's not, as we so often think, that black and white blend together, although they certainly do. It's far too complicated to sort out the mixing lines. It's hard to see the two opposing shades at the same time. We can see black, or we can see white. We can see good, or we can see bad. When we try to see both, they pull us in opposite directions until we come to the conclusion that there is no conclusion. That there is neither one nor the other. Our human minds cannot make sense of this. We have no paradigm for understanding both together. We cannot let a thing be two opposite things at once. It makes no sense!

Which is how we end up holding onto one or the other, desperately clinging to what we know, or what we think we know, or what we need to be true.

Grey is not really about the way black and white come together, though. That's only one theory of color. The other theory tells us that grey comes from the way the light plays between the two. It is here we begin to find our peace.

It's here that we take a "bad" man and start to see his brokenness. We see the tenderness inherent within him that was cracked by the pressures of a world he couldn't reconcile, and suddenly, a bad man doesn't seem so bad. Not does a recognition of brokenness make him a good man. No, he just begins to look more human. Less a bad man and more merely a man.

It's here that we take a "good" man and start to see his emptiness. We see the ache that drives him to do good, to satisfy some measure of emptiness in his spirit, whether that is depravity or something nobler. Even God's work in a man's heart is driven by emptiness; it's nothing to be ashamed of. Rather, it can be a beautiful driving force. But it shadows in a bit of a good man, so he doesn't seem so lofty and high any more. He's toned down into the world where the rest of us live. He becomes a shade of grey, a man and not a god.

It's here that we take an issue that gets us riled up. Whatever it is. Some social construct going on around us. Rather than see the trend as "bad," we start to see the need that created it. The brokenness that sent man searching for an answer. Now, it doesn't anger us to see man fallen so far; it grieves us. 

The same is true for something we see as beautiful in this world. A trend in what we might consider the right direction. When we look beyond what it seems we can see, we see the driving force behind it. An emptiness. An ache. And this, too, grieves us at the same time it gives us hope.

You see, nothing is purely one way or the other. Nothing is purely good or bad. It's all driven by something, and it's only in the right light that we start to see the true forces at play in the world around us. It's only in the right light that black and white fade to grey.

And what is that right light? It is God's truth, yes, but not simply that. For too long, man has relied on God's truth from above, God's holy word, and we shine His light down on people. But we've never used this looking for truth; we've always used this looking for judgment. When we shine God's light down on people, we're trying to cast them in black or white. We leave no room for grey.

The right light is the truth of God shining through us. Heart-to-heart. From one broken man to another. It's a light that first makes us transparent, that reveals our nature so that it can shine His truth. It's a light that doesn't cast shadows, but instead casts grace.

The right light lets us look at a bad man and see a broken man, because we've seen the one staring back at us in the mirror. It lets us look at a good man and see his emptiness, because the emptiness in our own eyes is sometimes haunting. It lets us grieve the hard things because we know the longing for something better, and grieve, too, the good things because the ache for more is real.

We have to stop looking at black and white. We have to stop looking at good and bad. We have to let go of our need for things to be one way or the other. Because things will always be a measure of both. If we can't figure out how to reconcile that, this world will always tear us apart. 

But if we start to see things under the right light...well, truth might just bring us together. In shades of grace.

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