RITE OF PASSAGE: Colorblind
As we move further into the political season, I keep hearing people saying that certain politicians are playing “the race card.” If there is anything I hate, it is the evaluation of an individual based upon his pigmentation. Man is much more than the color of his skin.
When I was a young preacher, I served a congregation that was very racist. I didn’t realize this at the time I accepted the call. As I began reaching out to the community around the church, I brought a young African-American boy to Vacation Bible School. I could never have anticipated the chain reaction this event would cause. The next thing I knew, I was invited to a meeting where I was instructed that, “those people” did not come to our church. If I wanted to reach “those people,” the congregation would be glad to give me money to do another Vacation Bible School on “their side” of town.
Up until that day, I had only heard of this kind of prejudice. I refused to back down. The next Wednesday, the church had a business meeting to vote me out. The vote failed by a slim margin. I stayed on a while longer, but my ministry there was basically over. The church leaders did everything they could get rid of me. First, I changed my car from a six-cylinder to a four-cylinder. Next, I got a notice that they were reducing my salary by . . . two cylinders. I may have won the battle, but I lost the war.
Several years went by before color became an important topic in our home once again. It happened when we discovered our oldest son is handicapped. For a long time, we just thought he had incredibly bad taste in clothing. Every time he came out of his room, my wife began to choke. Before long, she started asking, “Jeremiah, don’t you care how you look?” Our son seemed confused. As far as he knew, he looked pretty good.
I still remember the day we took him to the eye doctor to be tested. The doctor had a book of pictures composed of different colored dots. The rest of us could all see that certain colored dots made a number or letter within each picture. Jeremiah could not recognize any of them. At first he thought we were playing a joke on him. After a few minutes, he realized that his eyes did not allow him to see as we did. With the innocence of a little boy, his younger brother Caleb asked, “Jeremy, why is it you can’t see what we see?” The answer was simple: Jeremiah is colorblind.
Discovering his inability to distinguish certain colors was a great relief to both Jeremiah and his mother. After that, she spent time teaching him what shirt went with which pair of pants. But Jeremiah’s problem with colors went far beyond choosing clothes. For example, when he went shopping for a car, he took his younger brother along to help. If Caleb told him that it was a green car, Jeremiah would ask if it was a “good green” or a “bad green.” Being colorblind is a handicap that, like many others, can make life . . . complicated.
Actually, both of my sons are colorblind. I am Anglo-American, but the first congregation I served was African-American. When my sons started school, we sent them to a school where Anglos were in the minority. Since both boys grew up going to the mission field, many of their playmates were of different colors and cultures or spoke different languages than we did. When Jeremiah and Caleb talked about their friends, we never assumed that their background was just like ours.
To this day, our sons have friends of all different races and cultures. And to this day, we say that they are both . . . colorblind.
Colorblindness of the heart is not hereditary, nor is it a handicap. I believe that it is not taught, but caught by children who watch the way their parents live and relate to others.
Of all the handicaps a person can have, prejudice must be the worst of all. It closes the mind and cripples the spirit. I hope your children will become colorblind, just like . . . their Father.
Dear Lord, reveal to me my prejudices so that I may confess them to You. Wash away my weakness and shortcomings so that I will not pass them on to my children. May the hearts and voices of my children testify that not only did God so love the world, but that their parents did . . . too. Amen.