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Perception and Grace

On Thursday evening, I got home late and before going to bed I hopped onto Facebook to see what had happened in the world in my absence. My newsfeed was filled with debate and discussion about the color of a dress in a photo that seemed to take over the internet with surprising rapidity.

Because of the lighting in the photograph, and the way the human brain perceives color from visual cues, some people see a blue and black dress and others see a white and gold one. It’s a bizarre little phenomenon and probably no more than a two-day’s wonder.

What I found so fascinating, though, was the passion behind the arguments put forth by everyone from Joe-on-the-street to celebrities and politicians. Those who saw the dress at blue-and-black thought the white-and-gold folks were crazy—and vice versa—until they spent some time looking at it. Then, more than one of my Facebook acquaintances changed their position. “I originally just saw white and gold… But now I can see both. So weird,” one of my friends wrote.

Perspective

I was reminded of a song by Andy Gullahorn, “Line in the Sand, in which he begins by saying how offended he was as a child when his father would mix up his name with his brother’s—he thought that if his dad really loved them equally, he wouldn’t mix up names. But now, with three kids of his own, Andy says, he “loves them and confuses them just the same.” He sings in the chorus:

What I thought was true
What I thought was right
Sure looks a little different after all this time
No the truth won’t change
But perspective can
So much for the line in the sand.

The song has always challenged me to think about how often I decide that my perspective—whatever it is—is the right one and end the conversation there. Once I’ve decided that, you see, I’ve labeled it as “true” and “right” and will broach no opposition. No, opposition to my view is “wrong.”

I believe in absolute truth. I believe that the infinite God, who is outside of human experience, is and knows that absolute truth.

But if life experience and my understanding of Scripture have taught me anything, it’s that I’m broken: and therefore so is my perspective and my knowledge. There is absolute truth. And sometimes I can get a pretty good handle on it. But I am finite. And my recognition of my finitude can only leave me with one response: grace.

If I’m broken, if my finite mind is incapable of fully comprehending the absolute truth of an infinite God, then when someone disagrees with what I’ve decided is “true” and “right,” I have to allow for the possibility that I’m wrong—or even that we both are.

Andy Gullahorn goes on in “Line in the Sand” to tell a piece of his story,

There was a time I was on fire
I had a love for a Word I thought I knew but didn’t understand
‘Cause I used it as a weapon
To judge from on high
With no love or grace for any who were struggling
But struggles of my own I could not hide
And I found myself among the least of men
So you might imagine my surprise
As I came to recognize myself in them

I love the “struggle well with life” part of Church at Charlotte’s mission statement. It is a central piece of what makes this place unique. But to struggle well with life is hard. It means admitting that I don’t have all the answers. It means extending grace when I disagree. And it means that perhaps that white-and-gold dress is really blue-and-black and I’m just seeing it wrong.

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