WE ARE ONLY A COUPLE OF WEEKS AWAY from Ash Wednesday, which means that we are in the final planning stages for what is one of the truly unique services of the Christian year. Working on the bulletin for that service got me thinking about one of the truly traumatic things that affects our families, our churches, and our society – something that is doing more damage than we may realize.

While most of our worship guides are printed in full color, our Ash Wednesday edition is formatted and printed in a grayscale color environment as part of setting the mood, given the imposition of ashes and the subdued nature of the service.

However, getting full-color graphics and text converted to grayscale in a way that makes them useable requires a lot more than you may realize. To find the right blend of design and readability…not to mention the right shade and weight of fonts to make them readable when working in gray takes a lot more thought than you may realize.

In working with trying to shade this bulletin with gray, I came to realize this is more of a challenge then you might think, which in turn got me thinking about where we are in all facets of society – families, friends, church, civic clubs, government of all levels. We are becoming a Balkanized people wherein we silo ourselves with like-minded people who throw shade at anyone who dares think or act differently than our standards demand. Even amongst the self-styled tolerants that seem to get a lot of media attention, the hypocrisy is blatant and stunning, for the only thing that it seems the tolerants are intolerant of are intolerants. Promoting the idea that love conquers hate by engaging in hateful speech, action, and attitude is also an example of blatant hypocrisy that is more divisive than unifying. 

I wonder, however, if one of the reasons we are in this position is that in many ways we give into laziness of ideas. Those of you who know me well are aware that I am a man of strong convictions, and am not afraid to stand up for what I believe. Precisely because of this firmness of beliefs, I know that to listen (not just hear, but listen) to those who hold positions that, quite frankly, are indefensible to me takes a great deal of work. It would just be easier to surround myself with like-minded people who share all the same values. And yet it would be absolutely crippling to my spirituality to fall into the monochrome coalitions that are so prevalent in whatever field you may consider.

How do we move beyond our monochromatic circles in life? Simple. Grace. If we truly hold dear the idea that there is not a human being who does not, by their very existence, embody grace, then it should be easy and second-nature to know that we are encountering the presence of God in everyone.

How might this realization – that everyone is of sacred worth because it is by grace alone they draw breath – move us into a little more gray with respect to how we approach others?

(P.S. In no way am I saying one should not have clear values by which they choose to live and by which they view the world. This is simply about looking at a little more gray when it comes to our interpersonal interactions – and our rhetoric about those whom we know of even if we don’t know them, such as politicians and others in the public arena.)