Seeing Beyond Black & White

July 18, 2017

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…)

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. For we know in part and we prophesy in part10 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. 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.

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  • Cassandra Flaws July 19, 2017 at 2:12 pm

    I love that I read this post and your previous one, on Re-Imaging your angry feminist, back to back.

    I am still angry. And I am still in the process of re-imaging that anger into something useful. Some days, I. Just. Don’t. Want. To. It’s exhausting.

    As you so wonderfully put it here though- “…But Love…”

    For me, the anger that broke out in me when the veil was dropped is what gave me permission to see the color (and I LOVE that you call it color, and not just grey). For YEARS, I used language like “but so much about our faith is grey…” but I never really knew what to do with that, or what it meant, deep at the root… until the anger came. I knew in my heart that the phrase “Hate the Sin, Love the Sinner” didn’t translate to the “sinner” as love, but I struggled with getting the rejection of that statement to line up with my black and white faith. I knew in my heart that the whole “head of the household” thing didn’t really make sense to me on a practical level… but what did that mean?! There was no room for alternatives in the black and white world.

    But love.

    It’s worth it. The hard and emotional process of facing my anger and channeling it into something useful is worth it if it means I get to live and love in a world full of color; I could never go back to the black and white now that I’ve seen the alternative.

    Thank you as always for all the ways in which you are sharing your journey. It’s important. It’s worth it.

    • alyseelin July 24, 2017 at 10:52 am

      This is beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing. Living beyond black and white opens ourselves up to a world so full of love. Naturally, the poet Rumi summed up my post in just a few lines:

      Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing
      and rightdoing there is a field.
      I’ll meet you there.
      When the soul lies down in that grass
      the world is too full to talk about.

      I love being in that field with you.