Thanks to the creation of social media apps such as Twitter and Instagram, I can now list “master time-waster” as one of my official hobbies. What’s not to love about an endless flow of humorous cat videos or vacation photos from a person who might have sat behind you in a middle school math class? Relax, I will not be using my space (pun intended) in this installment of The Journey to diatribe on the evils of Facebook. In fact, for all of its mindless properties, occasionally something worthwhile does make its way across my news feed. My case and point? Videos of people seeing colors and hearing sounds for the first time.
There is something that sincerely tugs at my heart when I watch these shared moments. One video in particular shows a boy roughly ten or eleven years old opening a package which turns out to contain specially-designed glasses that allow for color-blind wearers to see the full spectrum of colors they have previously not been able to see. Prior to the individual putting on the glasses, there is a growing sense of amusement or maybe it’s mere curiosity, but really not much else… until the child puts on the glasses and begins to look around. In this moment, I can only imagine the individual’s brain is processing an absolute change in perception. The shapes are the same as they have always been, but there is a realization of what they have been missing out on. Something spectacular. Truly indescribable. I’m sure there have been countless conversations in which school mates tried to explain what he wasn’t able to see. Empty analogies which fail in comparison to actually seeing “blue” or “green” or “red.” How does one describe color using words to someone who has never experienced seeing colors?
Similar to the videos of color-corrective glasses being used, there are also a slew of videos floating around cyberspace that show an earpiece designed to allow its wearers who have lived their lives in deafness to hear sounds for the first time. Here, the videos begin with patients sitting somewhat apprehensively as a device is being placed into their ears. After a few moments as the device is activated… a flood of emotions ensue as we witness someone experiencing sounds for the first time in their life. In one case, a toddler hears the voice of her mother for the first time. Absolutely heartwarming.
What are sounds to a deaf person? What are colors to the blind? Mysteries. It is a strange concept to think that some things that many of us take for granted such as sound and color can be mysterious to many: absolutely unknown, foreign and abstract ideas. The mystery seems beautiful, but the truth of it is foreign until that moment of revelation.
While I was watching one of these videos and fighting a heaving throb in my chest and throat, holding back tears (to no avail), the concept of the mystery of God’s grace came to my mind and what it is like to live for so long in darkness and then to be brought into the light. There are several times in scripture that this idea is addressed, such as Paul’s letter to the Colossians:
I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness—the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people. To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
Colossians 1:25 – 27
What took me by surprise while I watched these videos was the bizarre feeling of sadness that was mixed with these moments of joy. Because strangely, there is a bittersweet combination of tears and laughter for the person experiencing what was unknown to them and is suddenly made known and real. And on my end as a spectator, my feelings are equally a paradox. As I turned over in my head and heart this strange contradiction, Paul’s message, essentially the very message of Grace, was brought to light. Just like Paul, we are “commissioned to present the Word of God in its fullness – the mystery that has been kept hidden.” There are many living in the world blind and deaf to the love of God. Many who go through the struggles of daily life without the “hope of glory.” Just because the technology exists for the deaf to hear and the color- blind to see color, does not mean that everyone will choose to or be given the opportunity to use these devices.
In this metaphor, we are merely called to be the bearers of the gift. We do not have to make sense of the mystery: the Holy Spirit is responsible for doing that. We are not the ones who have to make the way: God the Father did that though Christ. However, we are called to be witnesses – to the ends of the Earth in fact. In the lives of the people in the videos, someone had to step up and give them the glasses or take them to the place to experience the hearing device. Someone at least had to tell them about these devices and share the possibility. Someone had to be observant enough to realize who was in need of these devices.
As followers of Christ, each of us go from being the ones desperate for sight and hearing to being transformed into the ones to whom the mystery has been revealed. It is in this transformation that we are commissioned; this is the call that so many of us say we are waiting for: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth”(Acts 1:8). These are the final words Jesus spoke to his followers before ascending before their eyes. Be my witnesses. God has intrusted us with a role in revealing the mystery to others: present The Word. As believers, we carry the hope of glory. Now go, share the message and do the good work; it will be more rewarding than sharing another post.