What if you woke up one day in a world where everyone had forgotten the color green?
Can you describe the magic of green to someone who has never seen it?
Tell of the cold, new green of unfurled leaves, and the soft light of a morning sun sifting through a canopy of emerald – how it is tinted and dances happily on the ground. Explain how green is the smell of cut grass, the sound of the first bright notes of an Irish jig, and the taste of water washed in spring.
Try over and over.
Again and again.
Try and you will fail.
They must see green, experience green, to grasp the enormity of its existence.
Imagine being born into a dim, vaporous, world, able to see only sooty shadows. Unable to see, feel, or experience the reality of the solid things, only able to see their flat, inky stains. Imagine living with eyes straining to see what was behind the shroud, knowing deep down there were colors and light—but never actually seeing them, not even knowing their names.
We are all the man who has woken without his sight and forgotten who he is – save for the ache deep inside his chest.
Just as our lungs must breath and our hearts must pump, this ache must be soothed – and so the chase begins, the hunt for something to ease the throbbing pulse in the middle of our chests.
We chase either of two things, shadows or mirages, and here are their differences:
Shadows denote something real, their sooty outlines, and inky stains poured out by something solid to remind us of a reality brighter than the sun, greater than good, more than real.
We can no more imagine glory unfiltered, than we could imagine an oak tree, if all we had seen and known was the dark smudge that it cast. But we can chase those shadows, knowing deep down that the beauty we find around them – in them – is just a foretaste of the solid, untainted beauty that is coming.
Mirages are shimmery lies that entice. They hold out empty promises of thirst-quenching water and life, drawing one ever further into an arid desert where everything beautiful withers to dry, brittle bones.
I’ve chased both.
I have run after the bright things that shimmer and glisten like the image of an oasis in the desert. I have chased them down and I have felt my heart drop and shatter as I grasped handfuls of empty air.
And I’ve chased the dark outline of beauty unseen; I’ve run my hands across its seams, and heard the rustling of truth and beauty that the wind whispers to trees.
Here is where I want to stay, with the shadows of what Is But Not Yet, and the outlines of What Will Someday Be.
I’m with the shadows. I know the dark spills intimately and I know that they are real, but I also know that they are not all there is, for I have seen glimpses and heard whispers of what lies behind them, at the back of the north wind, further up and further in.
Like Puddleglum, I love the lamp and the cat, not because they are all there is, but because they remind me of the sun and the Lion, that are just beyond the crust of the world I’m in.
We should love every sunset, star and tree – not because they are the ultimate reality, but because we know they are not. What if the same is true for every person we meet? What if each one is just a shadow of what and who they really are?
If only we could see ourselves and each other as we were created to be, if only we could shake off all the chaff, burn away all the dross, leaving only the grain and gold.
What beauty would we taste, what glory could we know?
Lord, give us the eyes to see! And may we give glory and thanks for the shadows.
Featured image by Julie Witmer