I recently downloaded Sleeping At Last‘s Yearbook album off Noisetrade. While I had vaguely heard of his music before this was the first album I downloaded and listened through, and, I have to say, I am a fan.
As with any album, I really put a value on the lyrics rather than just the music. Sure, it doesn’t hurt to have a catchy melody but as a writer I place a high value on artistically crafted words that communicate emotion and touch the heart. As I was listening to Yearbook, I was struck by many of the words that were being sung. But there was one song in particular that stuck in my head, 101010. The chorus seemed to be on repeat in my head and I found myself humming the words even when I wasn’t listening the song:
’cause grey is not a compromise -
It is the bridge between two sides.
The shores on which our stubborn land
And restless seas collide.
Grey is not just middle ground,
It is a truce that waits to be signed.
I would even argue that, from where we stand,
It most represents the color of God’s eyes.
These words really grabbed ahold of me. I did a little looking and stumbled upon a blog post written by Sleeping At Last about the origin of this song and what some of the meaning behind it. While the story is a beautiful one full of sobering truth and emotion, the beauty of art is that you can find yourself amidst the words in a way the writer could not have foreseen.
I was pondering the words and was drawn to the idea that much of what we believe is focused on a “this or that” a kind of rigid dualistic thinking. There is what I believe is right and what I believe is wrong. There is clear line in the sand that is drawn and, if people can’t see this clear line and don’t side with my perspective, they are obviously wrong. As the song subtly implies, the extremes are clearly defined: black and white.
I understand why we think this way: it’s easy. It’s easy for our brains to comprehend when there are only two choices. It makes things simpler to understand and easier to grasp. The “this or that” mentality makes sense. Sure, there are moments where it’s easy to draw the line, prove your point, or choose a side, but unfortunately life isn’t always that clearly cut or that simple. It’s more complex than that. The extremes of black and white are just that, extremes.
If you’ve ever studied Statistics, you are familiar with the idea of a bell curve. Of all the possible data points the outliers make up the extremes while the majority (+/- 96%) usually fall within two standard deviations of the middle. Your understanding of the outcome may exist in the outliers but your data may prove another conclusion. In those instances, does it make sense to still hold tightly onto your conclusions just because there was some evidence supporting your understanding? Or do the findings support the fact that you might need to take into consideration new data and information that may move what you believe more towards the middle?
Now, move this out of the realm of hypothetical, statistical theory and into real life for a minute.
What if your view on [fill in the blank with your favorite controversial issue] is leaning towards the outliers? Chances are you can identify those on the other end as well and you probably end up engaging in fights with them via your Facebook timeline or Twitter feed more often than not. But, what if we looked at our beliefs through the bell curve analogy and recognized that most of the disagreements are actually taking place on the outliers of these issues? That means the majority of people actually exists somewhere between the extremes—black and white—somewhere in the grey. Would that change the way we interact with people?
Better yet, should that change the way we interact with people?
I love the final two lines of 101010 because I think it is a beautiful picture of how we should look at God when he sees us. He sees all of us as we are: the good and the bad. He sees the incredible things we’ve done that overjoy His heart, and He sees the horrible things we’ve done to break his heart. He doesn’t blanket condemnation because of your choice right now, nor does He blindly offer grace because of what you haven’t done. He loves us wherever we are at on the continuum—black, white, or whatever shade of grey—and wants all of us to be drawn to Him.
What if we did the same? What if we stopped trying to sort people into camps, deconstructing the opposition’s argument, and focusing on the outliers? Because the reality is we are probably not going to change the way the extreme opposition thinks by lobbing logical, theological, or political grenades. What if, instead, we began to look at the world through the eyes of those caught in the middle of these minority wars and those who have to deal with the fallout? If we did, would that change the way we engaged with others? Would it change the way we love others? Would it change the way we see the world? Because, if you think about it, God doesn’t even see the way the world the way we do.
We like things to make sense and be simple—often at the expense of others. However, God does not need that simplicity because He already understands it all. And because His ways are more complex than our ways, I have to wonder if our black and whites are just shades of grey to Him.