I am passionate about my faith, my spirituality is the richest part of my life. But can I share a struggle with you? So often, when sharing my thoughts with others, I am met with a resistance to unorthodox ideas. Which puzzles me because I know we are all just trying to live out our beliefs as best we can. But in my pursuit of conversation, I am confronted with a confining black and white way of viewing a world that is rich in color.
Women cannot be pastors. Period. (No need for context of scripture)
Homosexuality is a sin. Period. (No room for discussion)
God is a man. Period. (No call to hear from the women of faith)
Having a conversation like this can be an exercise in futility, and usually ends with me pulling at my hair in frustration.
When I was teaching high school I loved watching my student’s growing ability to see beyond black and white. I had the honor of helping them catch sight of the murky grey in history. We found that almost nothing was absolutely Wrong or absolutely Right. We could spend a whole class period exploring a topic, unpacking it, wrestling with it, and ultimately expanding our view. It was honestly a beautiful thing to witness.
Grey leads to discussion.
Grey leads to understanding.
Grey leads to growth.
The dichotomy of black and white shuts conversation down and ends any potential for progress.
This isn’t new. I’m not opening your eyes to any new way of thinking or dropping some major truth bomb on ya’ll. But if you’ll allow me to entertain my budding poet, here is something I’ve been chewing on lately:
Black is the total absence of light, right?
And white is nothing but light, yea?
So between black and white exits infinite shades of grey.
And not only grey.
But all shades, of all colors, that have ever existed and will ever exist.
You could say that – all of creation exists between the Black and the White.
I think we know this to be the truth. The things that color our world, that feed our soul – relationships, love, faith- do not exist in a dichotomy. They do not exist in black and white. There is nothing more murky grey than the healing relationship between a mother and a daughter or a husband and wife. And I can tell you that my faith exploded into a rainbow of prismatic colors when I gave myself permission to leave the black and white behind.
This world is not made of shades of grey. It is made of colours like azure and coral and emerald and marigold. But it insists on painting everything in black and white and fitting it into boxes that it understands. Do not do that to yourself…- Nikita Gill, Colours
Even Paul knew this (and believe me, if you had told me a year ago I’d be citing Paul in anything I wrote, I would probably have fallen over, but again, nothing is black or white…)
8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became [an adult], I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 1 Corinthians 13:8-12
Any rigid belief system assumes that all knowledge is already known. It assumes that all prophecies are fully understood. It assumes that, beyond any doubt, the black is black and the white is white and there is no room for anything in between. There is no room for discussion, because there is no room to be wrong. It does not leave room for color.
But as Paul says- we only know things ‘in part’. Our humanity, our experiences, our worldview, limit us from having all the answers or ever fully understanding.
What we think we know,
What we are willing to bet our life on,
(What we vote on)
…Is only a reflection in a mirror.
We will only ever know in part.
The true mystic is always both humble and compassionate, for she knows that she does not know. -Richard Rohr
So, we must allow for color. We must be willing to consider the fact that we may be wrong. We don’t always have the right answers. We fail. We make mistakes. We say something and believe something and we find out later that we were wrong. We grow.
But love. But love. But love.
Love never fails. Love makes room… not only for grey, but every color that exists. Love welcomes other experiences and perspectives. Love embraces contradiction.
If we really believe that we are all (every, single, last one of us) made in the image of a Holy Power- then every color deserves to be heard. Every color belongs.
How have you allowed for color and growth in your life?
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A previous version of this post included the phrase “Abortion is wrong. Period. (No need for understanding)”. It has been replaced as it was too divisive and distracted from the overall point and intention of the writing.