Shades of Gray

Life would be so much easier in black and white. Clear edges, definite lines. Stark delineation between here and there, yes and no, right and wrong. Surely, we’d all find ourselves on the same side. Or, at least, we wouldn’t have to work so hard to figure out who the good guys are.

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But it’s never that simple, is it? Even if you believe in the veracity of scripture, the Bible itself seems to overflow with contradictions. Don’t believe me? Try to explain to a non-Christian how God is both perfectly loving and perfectly just. We claim to understand the juxtaposition, but we can’t wrap our minds around it. Not really. It’s a matter of trust, of faith.

And so we find ourselves blinking at a thousand shades of gray. This is nothing new. Nothing earth shattering or noteworthy. But for some reason it’s hitting me really hard right now. I want answers. I want someone to tell me what to do and how to feel, because I don’t feel very capable of muddling through the gray right now.

It strikes me as I type this morning, as I try to come up with words to describe how I feel and why, that part of what makes living in a world of ambiguity so difficult is the fact that we are sometimes so hellbent on defining truth. We draw our lines in the sand and woe to anyone who questions the parameters. Sometimes we even go so far as to hurl ugly, divisive words at each other. You want to talk about truth? I have it and you don’t. How can we be so sure of ourselves?

I think the world would be a better place if we were quick to listen and slow to speak. Eager to ask why and hesitant to judge. Less concerned about being understood and tenacious in our quest to understand. It would help if we remembered that nothing exists in a vacuum. That the man who spouts hatred was probably a child who never knew love. That the woman who is bitter has likely lived a bitter life. Lord, make us compassionate.

In a world where we all love to point fingers, wouldn’t it be grand if we would all just shut up for a few minutes? Look to our own families and friends, focus on our children. Get off each other’s backs. Leave the poor mom who painted her son’s toenails pink alone. Let Will and Kate enjoy married life before clamoring for an heir. Be gracious to our friends when we disagree instead of letting small things drive wedges between us. Accept that we can see the world differently and still love each other.

My prayer for today, and every day (from St. Francis):

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.


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