Today, in the absence of my Senior Pastor, who is on a Mission Trip, Jason, my Executive Pastor for Equipping, made a statement prior to launching into his message. His statement converged on internet images I’ve seen this past week: a pink and white trailer in an overgrown weedy yard, and a gold and white dress. On the surface the three are unrelated. But in reality, they deal with the same issue: Our plumb-line, or point of reference.
Just as a level is a horizontal reference, a plumb-line (aka a plummet or plumb-bob) is a vertical reference. They both are reference tools. But they perform different jobs. Jason started off by saying something to the effect that, “The problem with a perceived lack of Spiritual Growth is that we don’t use the correct measurement tool.” Tools are only as good as they are correctly used. A level doesn’t measure depth any more than a plumb-line, levels a photo. That resonated with me, but not only for the spiritual application, but for everyday applications.
The images joined with this statement via Facebook. One image is the infamous dress of changing colors. I see it as Gold and White. Neuro Science and the Science of Color Perception both tell me I’m wrong, that the dress is actually Black and Blue. It has something to do with the way each of us perceives the lighting around an object. The questions many scientists are now asking are, “Why are so many people seeing it differently? What has triggered so many of us to see the surrounding light differently?” (Incidentally, my first inclination was to wonder if this is all a social experiment to see how many people will have a change in perception once they read about the science proof—how many people who originally saw it as gold and white, can be swayed to believing it is actually black and blue. I still, even after reading the scientific proof, see it as gold and white—even when I see the original, alongside the other two.)
Here’s an article about the neuroscience behind our perception of color (and a side-by-side comparison of the original dress, and the two ways we perceive it):
I’ll get back to this in a while.
The other image I’ve seen recently is the one of the pink and white trailer in the overgrown, weedy yard proclaiming, “50 shades is only romantic because he is a billionaire. If he was living in a trailer, it would be a ‘Criminal Minds’ episode.” Another perception issue you might think. At first I thought so as well. But then I realized the insidiousness of what it was actually saying.
I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the pink trailer—I want a retro travel trailer to paint like that for my retirement trips. However, I HATE, HATE, HATE the sentiment expressed. On the surface it appears to denounce disrespect. But reread it...especially this one phrase...
"...is only romantic..."
Only romantic? Really?! That phrase lends credibility to the notion that the exploitation of another person can be "romantic."
It's not. Ever.
Love and romance stem from mutual respect. Mutually placing the others needs before your own. Protecting each other. There is no protection in an abusive relationship. No romance. No mutual give and take. There is no mutual anything. There is a giver (the abused by choice or by circumstance) and there is a taker (the abuser). And don’t even get me started about consenting adults.
"Consent" is nothing. People consent all the time to horrendous situations in order to gain acceptance or "love.” But a “consenting” under aged person is still considered statutorily raped.
And so it is with abuse. Abuse is not an optical illusion or a color perception issue like The Color Changing Dress. When it comes to abuse, there is no grey—fifty shades or otherwise. Abuse is a black or white issue.
Abuse is wrong. Always.
Coming back to what Jason said this morning, I realized the reason some of my friends see “Fifty Shades” as romantic is the same as the color perception of The Dress. We are using a different measurement tool—we are looking at it with a different light source. And therein lies the problem. We are measuring love and romance by the wrong plumb-line. If I try to measure my weight with a ruler it will come out wrong. If I try to measure my height with a scale. It will come out wrong.
And so it is with love and romance, if we try to measure love or romance by eroticism, it will never be right.
So what can we measure love by? I’m glad you asked.
1 John 3:16 tells us how we can know what love is—Jesus Christ is our example. He laid down His life for us. Our soldiers know this. They are ready to lay down their life and fight wars to ensure the people they love (and the rest of us) will live in freedom.
But that’s just war and God, you might say. What about romantic love? What is that? Again, I’m glad you asked.
1 Corinthians 13, the “Love Chapter” paints a beautiful picture of what love is and what love isn’t. Especially verses 4-8a.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” (Italics and bolding are mine to visually represent the differences between what love is not and what love is.)
I encourage you to question your perceptions and find the Correct Tool with which to measure everything.