GRAY GRAY GRAY
Have you ever been convinced to take a journey of awareness yet wanted to ignore it in hopes that the inevitable would just fade away? Most of my life I have been skirting around the edge of such a journey—one I knew would be uncomfortable. It was safer to remain in my protected shadowy existence…at least that is what my clouded mind kept telling me. But as I matured, my GRAY safety net kept getting holes in it. There came a D-Day—a fact I had to accept. Admitting this reality has been a painfully slow process, but I have determined that evil and darkness do exist…even in my world.
As a young girl and even into my teenage years, I was always scared of the dark. The penetrating darkness at nighttime held shadows of unknown beings that captured my thoughts in fearful dreams. There were times when I could not shake the images I would drudge up in my mind, particularly when the wind was blowing making the boards in the attic creak. Most nights I read myself to sleep or tried to reason my fears away. It was easier on summer evenings with my bedroom window open, listening to the crickets chirping or the coyotes howling. Eventually, I began keeping a small lamp on. Light seemed to chase away some of the lurking demons. Otherwise, darkness proved to be a snare, engulfing me with daunting emotions. Just as quickly as the fears had come upon me the night before, they would leave at the first crack of dawn. The sun’s rays became a light switch for my awakening, freeing me from the darkness that had entrapped me. I welcomed the anticipation of a new day.
I wish all the brokenness and negativity I now sense could be switched off at daybreak, erasing all the “bad stuff.” Unfortunately, there is no light switch to change the tides of evil that seem to be permeating the fabric and existence of our country. In my younger days, there were no school shootings, divorce was rare, and human trafficking was an unknown entity–at least in my world. I sought perfection, so I learned to vanish the negative away in a flash—my idyllic world seemingly fit me well. Today, if I follow the media, my mind easily becomes entrapped with images of racial violence, school shootings, children being separated from their parents, sexual immorality…it becomes harder to remain optimistic.
Life has a way of breaking down the layers of comfort and making one face unwanted trials and challenges. As my “perfect” world began to crack, I came to the conclusion that I had lived in a non-distinct GRAY area most of my life. I believed that all should be wholesome in life, or it was my fault if it was not. Within my family, I became a people pleaser– my first response and eventually my natural inclination for work, church, or any other activity or conflict that came my way. As a Christian woman, I thought doing the right things morally and spiritually would protect me. In my teaching, I just knew that all students would respond positively if given the right soil to germinate and reach his/her potential. With life in general, I was always trying to find the middle ground, the GRAY area that seemed to be safer and easier to tolerate or control. Neither lifeless or vibrant in shade, GRAY blends with most situations not having to be distinct or decisive. Easily enough, it became my default button. When it began to fail me, I was left with uneasy thoughts and emotions. Frustrated and fearful as more and more life circumstances seemed to be out of my control, I felt compelled to figure out what happened in my life that made me settle for the GRAY because the middle ground was no longer working.
As a child attending church and Sunday school, I learned that love is God so I should love everyone and hate no one. At home, I couldn’t express that I hated liver, rainy days, or irritating things that my little brother did. Hate was a reality I could not relate to even though I saw anger at times in my parents or once in a while heard stories about human tragedies in the news. The year was 1969 when I first personally encountered hostile opposition. It was in college with a small group of African-American women in my dorm who always rudely cut into the cafeteria line as the rest of us waited our turn. They not only cut in line but would angrily and loudly make curt remarks about everyone else around them, even other gals of their own race. They were never disciplined in any way for their actions that continued my entire freshman year. I did not like being near their angry spirits, nor did I try to understand them. I disliked their behavior immensely–feared them more than anything. Being busy with my studies and trying to embrace a plethora of activities, I learned to ignore the unruly group of young women. I know now that I was too naive to understand the implications of their hate-filled actions. Right or wrong, I disregarded racism and remained in the GRAY, blinded to the root causes within the conflict.
Being a pastor’s wife during my 30’s and 40’s, I was mainly around church people with a heart for God–Christians who were not perfect, but a group of people I had much in common with. I flourished in a sheltered community of believers that unfortunately did not often venture into the outside world seeking unbelievers. I remained in my safe haven and was unaware that there were even individuals that would ever truly hate Christians. I knew that certain people did not want anything to do with Christianity, but no worries for me since I was not threatened in any way. I pursued the avenues where I wanted to serve and was content to live in my protected world. I valued my wonderful life–my family, my church home, and my teaching career. Evading the rest of the world, I failed to recognize that my spiritual growth was stagnating into a deeper GRAY, void of any luster.
How did good and evil get distorted for me, leaving me unaware of the problems caused by the color GRAY? Bottom line, I had never fully comprehended that evil existed–it lived across the ocean or in someone else’s home across town. I have come to believe that for years I attempted to live in the GRAY area of the Christian faith partly due to the fact that I am not naturally confrontational. You could even call it the wishy-washy place, don’t make a commitment that might-ruffle-feathers space, or don’t rock-the-boat stance. Even though a believer, I lived in the GRAY area far too long, a place filled with blended chaos. The truth lacked distinction becoming clouded and foggy…thinking became more confusing and unfiltered.
My GRAY naivete might have been acceptable when I was young, but not as an adult. My awakening out of the GRAY began with why questions that never seemed to have satisfactory answers. Gradually, after dealing with some major life situations completely out of my control, I felt called to confront my GRAY beliefs. Becoming a focus in my life, I sought biblical truths that at first only seemed to confuse the issue. Living in the GRAY for so long had distorted my discernment, but life situations brought me to the real question: Could BLACK and WHITE truly exist in life? One such scripture captured my attention.
“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.” Paul in Romans 12:9 issues a command to love genuinely…not just profess to love others. Hadn’t I always tried to be courteous? Listened when others shared their needs and concerns? Voiced my opinion when injustice appeared? Sadly enough, I realized after those weak attempts at connecting, I would turn and go back into my safety zone—the GRAY. There were no prevalent actions on my part that showed sincere empathy with others’ situations outside my comfort zone.
The next statement really caught me off guard—the command to hate what is evil. The word hate does not seem to fit in a verse that tells us to love so strongly. Love generates happy feelings while hate conjures up ugliness and hurt. Opposites are said to attract, but I see hate as a foreboding darkness of evil and love as a bright and shining light of goodness. Good vs. evil–the two do not seem to fit together well and are at opposite spectrums. Then there is the third command–embrace what is good. Is that not what I had been trying to achieve? So why was it now breaking down in my life?
I did not want to change my way of thinking because if evil has always been in my midst that would mean there were real demons I need to fight–not only the ones I reckon with in the dark but even those that loom in daylight! Facing the truth had to be accomplished if I were to grow out of the GRAY area that superficially kept me safe. Little did I know this journey of awareness would lead me through some of the darkest valleys I would ever travel. While existing in my self-imposed GRAY area, I had been missing truths that would expose the darkness yet lead me closer to the Light of the World. At this point, my awareness journey would continue but with the new sense of reality that God was truly guiding me to a deeper perception of His goodness in my life.
I am certain that your awareness journeys have challenged you. Like me, God may have used the situations of life to bring you to a deeper understanding of His love and purpose as He drew you closer to truth—maybe even the BLACK and WHITE. Share your thoughts or struggles concerning the brokenness in our world. How do you deal with all the bad stuff that becomes more common place each passing day? Are there GRAY areas of thinking in your life that need to be unmasked?
My journey out of the GRAY continues in my next blog post.
Blessings for your journey! Just Kathy