Peace deficient sight

I’m colorblind. Or to be more technical about it, I’m color deficient. This means that I have difficulty distinguishing between what I would call similar colors. I’m guessing this might not make a whole lot of sense to “normal” color vision people. 

Most of the challenge arises when I have similar colors that are deep and dark as well as light in nature. So I can’t tell the difference between a dark purple and blue. They look exactly the same to me. Similarly, I have difficulty with a light pink and gray. How dark or light? Well, it depends. Even some not so dark or light colors I have difficulty distinguishing between. Especially when I have nothing to compare a color to. So you know those traffic lights that are flashing just red or yellow – if it wasn’t for a stop sign accompanying the red ones, I wouldn’t know which color it was. 

This past summer we were on a trip to the Great Smokey Mountains. On our way back we stopped at a Tennessee rest stop. Tennessee has done something incredible. They have installed color blind friendly view finders. I got the opportunity to look through one. This was the first time in my life that I saw what red really looked like. It was amazing. It was bright. I had never seen anything like it before. The colors of the objects I was looking at were distinct and clear. There was no mistaking what color the various objects off in the distance were. Because of my deficiency I needed something outside of myself to assist me in seeing “normal.” I do not have the capacity on my own for “normal” vision, no matter how hard I try or no matter how much I may know about what “normal” color vision is. It’s just beyond me. 

In the past few weeks, we have seen a continuation of the war in Ukraine with civilian targets being hit. Regular people’s lives have been made far more difficult just to survive. These are always the ones who suffer the most in a war. 

We’ve seen war escalate in Israel and Palestine – a war with actual physical destruction, a war of ideas and beliefs, a war of words and labels. A war that has been devastating. A war that many debate the start date of – just a few days ago, a few years ago, decades ago, or thousands of years ago. Regardless, innocent people suffer – both in Israel and Palestine. Families in other places not knowing what is happening to family members. 

We’ve been witnessing a type of power war in the US House of Representatives going on with the ouster of a speaker and the potential replacement dropping out due to a lack of support. In the meantime, no business can go on. There are those members of Congress who hold the chamber up insisting on their way. But even if they got their way in terms of who was elected, the chances of passing legislation they want are minimal. And compromise and the common good are casualties in this war. 

That’s just three examples – well known ones from various places in the world. I could just as easily point to any other three. 

The world and humanity are in a state of…flux? chaos? conflict? what? We know it even if we may not have the words for it. 

In college, I did an internship with a congressional office. On the first day, the office manager pulled me aside and said words I have never forgotten – “You’ll quickly discover that it’s a miracle that our system of government works at all.” That is so true. And what I’ve discerned over the years and it seems truer now than at any other point in my life is a variation of that statement. I would say that it’s a miracle that anything works at all. If humanity actually had its act together, I’d be worried that we would finally be successful in wiping life off this planet. But because it’s a miracle that anything works at all, I’m less concerned about that. 

In the midst of such division, conflict, power struggles, etc, something else is discernible. I’m not convinced that the world or humanity as a whole has ever actually known peace. We cry for peace all the time, but I’m not convinced that we actually know what peace is. What we experience from time to time is not really peace, but the absence of direct conflict reinforced by fear of annihilation and destruction. 

If we actually knew peace, and I mean really encountered it and experienced it firsthand, would we ever actually resort back to violence? Wouldn’t it be just too good to let go of? 

Since we have never actually experiencing peace as a whole, we don’t know what it is like. We don’t know how it feels or sounds like. We don’t know what it means in terms of relationship to others, ourselves, and the world around us. We don’t have the slightest clue what peace actually is. 

We are peace deficient. And just a color deficient person, we have never seen the true colors of peace. It doesn’t matter how hard we try, or how much we study peace, we can’t possibly experience it on our own without an outside influence. We can only imagine and dream how incredible peace actually is. 

But I envision that when we actually encounter peace, we will be so moved by it that we won’t want to walk away from it. It will be just too appealing to us. That we will be in awe. That it will replace our “normal” with something far better. 

So what are we to do in the meantime? I think there’s a few answers to that question. 1. We aren’t called to fix everyone’s peace deficiency. We can’t. 2. We are called to invite people into recognizing that what we see is not normal and that there is a different way. We can’t control how they will respond or what they will do or say. All we can do is live as if ourselves and invite others into a similar way. 3. Recognize that we don’t have the answer because we ourselves are peace deficient too. For those of us of faith, we turn to God to act upon us and give us what we can’t get on our own – the ability to see peace for what it is. 4. Pray. Pray that we may be humble in the midst of chaos. Pray that we may be vulnerable. Pray that we may live in alignment with what it means to follow God and God’s ways. Pray that we may be invitational. Pray that we do not get swept up in the things of this world that would shape our identities into something else – into the partisan identities that are more interested in fighting than in moving the world towards shalom peace, wholeness, and completeness. 

Once I saw what red was actually like, it stuck with me. My memory has been impacted, even if my sight immediately goes back to what my eyes are capable of seeing. Now I have seen what “normal” is. Maybe humanity has never seen or experienced what peace actually is, but that’s not where our hope lies. You see, I think and believe that individuals and even groups have experienced and encountered peace – real peace. We get small tastes of peace, like a color deficient view finder. We can’t see the whole picture, but we get enough to impact us. 

Peace is not something “out there” or something separate from creation or unnatural. I think it is actually more natural than we could ever imagine. It’s more all around us all the time than we can grasp. It’s not separate at all. 

Peace is as prevalent as the air we breathe. It is as present as what “real” red looks like when our deficiency is assisted by God to see what is already there. And it’s incredible. It’s waiting for us to see it and be impacted by it. To be embodied in it. To be shared. 

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