Ever put on glasses and all of a sudden the world looks a different color?
I had a particularly interesting appointment with an eye doctor a few years ago, and I found out the world looks entirely different to me, than the world you see around you.
“Mr. Braner, can you tell me what number you see here?” the doctor asked as she hoisted up a book that looked something like this.
“Nope. I just see a bunch of dots.” I replied
“You mean you don’t see any difference between the colors of dots?”
“Well, I can see shades, but I can’t make out any significant difference.”
The doctor put the book down with a disturbed look on her face, and announced, “Mr. Braner, you are 100% color blind.”
What?? How could this be? I’ve lived my whole life thinking I knew what colors were which, but this doctor has just announced all that work in Kindergarten working on colors was a waste!!
You mean I could have gone to recess instead of staying in and working on colors?
The frustration must have shown on my face, because when she looked up at me she said, “It’s ok. There’s a lot of men out there who can’t see color.”
Huh? I never knew. I thought.
Since the epiphonal moment in the Doctors office, I’ve learned that we all see life a little different. For me, I see the world in an entirely different color than you do, proved by science. But let’s be honest, we all see life through some kind of lens.
It colors all the information we hear and informs us about what is real and true in life. That’s just part of being human. But what makes up that color? How can we know what we’re looking at is actually what we think it is? After all, one person may see the events unfolding in the Middle East one way, and someone else may see the situation in a totally different way.
Life’s lenses are shaded by several known components.
Where we are born
What culture we’re raised in
What our family life was like growing up
What experiences caused physical or emotional trauma
Where we were educated
How old we are
What phase of life we’re working in
What part religion or faith has played in our lives
What our nutrition is
What our economic background looks like
What our vocation is
All of these issues create a certain color by which we see the world, and the challenge each one of us when looking at issues in the Middle East. The difficulty is to decide which color you are most predisposed to.
I’ve found that my color blind-ness actually has become a huge help in understanding how to look at people who live in a different part of the world. It helps me react to issues within my own cultural bias, and I can begin to empathize with people based on their lens.
The lens I choose to see the world through is one that sees a Creator God who made all of humanity, and is interested in engaging with us. It’s also tinted towards finding the best in people. As much as I can temper my own biases and environmental experience, I try to see people as people instead of objects.
So when I engage with my friends in the Middle East, my first step is to see the creation that God made and asked me to Love them unconditionally, as human.
Sure there are people who are easier to care for, mainly those who also see the world through the same lens I see the world through. We have common places where we can develop relationships.
And then the people who are more difficult to see through my lens, I try desperately to understand what lens they use to see the world.
For example, here in America we often see the differences between the theology of Islam and Christianity, and rightfully so. There are some intense differences. But what might it look like if we sought commonality?
Most of my Muslim friends are interested in a conversation about Jesus, as He is a very important part of their prophetic line. He was born of a Virgin, performed miracles on earth, and is supposed to come back and judge the world and reign on the world. That’s common.
Many of my Jewish friends aren’t that interested in Jesus, so we begin by looking at Abraham and talking through the Torah as a primary faith book. That’s common.
The differences are an easy place to go, because that’s where your find the black and the white. It’s easy to point out someone who doesn’t see life like you. But if we’re interested in developing real friendships we find that living in the space between what is common and what is different without being angry at another person is exciting. Again, the lens I want to see the world through is one that gives all people the foundation of being created by God, and working through life in common bonds of human.
The exciting part is where difference happens. That’s where we find the places we can work on together. But without developing a relationship first, differences only point out the problems at the beginning without fighting to care for someone who may think totally different.
So when we approach the Middle East, we need to be honest with ourselves and identify which lens we want to see the world through. The next step is to find the common places where we can develop friendship.
After all, if we want to engage in the world as fellow human journeymen, we have to find some place where we can agree before we go into the differences.
Tomorrow, I’ll start working through the exciting world of difference, and help you guys see how complicated the Middle East can be. Hold on to your hats, because it’s not as easy as just assigning the ‘good guy’ versus the ‘bad guy’ labels.