Friday, September 5, 2008

Colorful Souls

The year: 1991. The place: Helderberg College, South Africa. The students congregating in the Student Centre were Black, Coloured, White. As we looked out over the rugby field and vineyards in diminishing daylight, we sang to the accompaniment of guitars and piano:

All the colors of the rainbow,
Skies are blue and forests green.
Red and yellow flowers on the hillside grow . . .
Children laugh and play together.
They don’t know what’s bad or good.
They don’t understand there’s a wrong neighborhood.
But Lord, what color is the soul?

I felt a little smug in my colorblindness. I was just here for a year of African adventure. I grew up in post-civil-rights-movement Long Island, NY, where my home church was made up primarily of Jamaican blacks who were far more civilized and successful than I ever would be. We Americans, we knew better than to judge by skin color.

Red and yellow, black and white shall join to know
That there’s no color to the soul.

As we finished the song, there was a sense of history in the making. And indeed, only three years later in 1994, two events made history in South Africa. #1 – I married my South African man. #2 – Nelson Mandela became president following the country’s first free post-apartheid election.

Fast forward a few years. I’ve learned that there really are colors to the soul – colors much more important than skin. And once again, I continue in my smugness of colorblindness. It doesn’t matter what kind of music you prefer, where or how often you go to church, or what you believe about end time events. You may love a good beer, live in a convent, give all your money to charity, or be covered in tattoos. That’s not important. I won’t judge whether or not you’re good on the basis of those things.

Yet I constantly find myself tripping up in this global society we live in. I question people’s goodness on the basis of so many cultural values:
  • When employees steal from our project here in Mozambique, I wonder how they can steal from all those little old ladies donating their $10 each month so we can build churches and schools and wells here. How can they steal from the children who would be educated in those buildings; who would drink from those wells? I can’t fathom a society where “good” people simply take what they need, with no sense that it belongs to someone else.

  • When parents watch their child suffer and possibly die rather than seek medical treatment because it goes against their religious beliefs, I can’t stand the insanity. Or when parents see a physical deformity in their child as a blessing to celebrate rather than a problem to be fixed (when it can be fixed), I question their logic.

  • When people just happily accept their lot in life instead of fighting to change it, I cringe. They could be so successful and even wealthy if they would just work a little harder, stress a little more, show a little more ambition.

  • When people refuse to be tested for HIV, preferring to live in ignorant sickness and pain rather than to know they have a death sentence that could be delayed if they would just be tested and treated, I shake my head in disbelief.

  • When people constantly ask for handouts, I get irritated that they can’t just find something productive to do instead of being dependent on people like me.
Some things aren’t black and white. Some things aren’t gray. Some things are vivid, vibrant, crazy colors that don’t make any sense to me.

God loves color. Not just color of skin, but color of soul, also. He is not colorblind – He created colors to enjoy.

God, open my eyes to Your colors. Help me to see through Your eyes and celebrate the diversity You’ve put into Your colorful world.
This post has been entered into Scribbit's Write-Away contest.


Dana said...

cute handprints!!!

angie said...

"Some things aren’t black and white. Some things aren’t gray. Some things are vivid, vibrant, crazy colors that don’t make any sense to me."

This is the most insightful thing I've read in a long time. Looks like you'll do well in the contest! :)

Heather of the EO said...

Great post again, lady!

dani said...

beauty full, color full, and oh so truth full... may you bless many with your words, j!!!

Octamom said...

I absolutely second what Angie said--beautifully written, profound in scope--
Thank you, thank you for sharing this.

Scribbit said...

Red and yellow, black and white shall join to know
That there’s no color to the soul.

What a beautiful thought--

Sarah said...

very well said. God help us all have "colorful souls."

Jennifer said...

No wonder you already have 3 honorable mentions! You always put things the way I hear them in my head - eloquent and simple - but can never seem to get them onto the screen that way.

Damselfly said...

Wow. That is amazing. I hope you win the contest!

Debra said...

If I was judging ... you would win! This is one of the most honest look at one's heart! Well done!

Irritable Mother said...

"Help me to see through Your eyes."
Oh, how many times this has been my prayer!!!

Genny said...

What a beautiful, thought provoking post. Thank you. And I loved that you ended it with that precious, colorful picture!

Mary@notbefore7 said...

Looking forward to one of your posts winning! This is so thoughtful!

Anonymous said...

Nice post!

mamajil said...

this was an awesome post!!
I was touched by this!!

KathyLikesPink said...

A lovely post, and I love the picture accompanying it!

sarah said...

Very well written. You have had such an incredible experience there. I am so grateful you can share it with all of us.

Wifey said...

Excellent post! Love it - smiles!

Wendi said...

Wow. The way you articulate things is very touching! This was a wonderful post and I am so glad I read it today.
Really really true and insightful!

Gabrielle said...

that was good! we may not understand the contrast we see because some of those contrasts create shadows in the dark, I wish also that everyone would come to the bright truthful light to see and to know that life could be better....insightful post and beautiful thoughts!