Well, I never thought I would be writing about a dress. But here we are. 2015. No pizza hydrators, but online debates about the color of a dress. #Winning
In case you missed the drama, a photo of a dress was posted online with the query, “What color is this dress?” Instantly, an earthquake split the universe in two. The Internet split into two camps– one that answered “White and Gold” and another that answered “Blue and Black” (and those few sensible individuals that said “Periwinkle and Brown” or something along those lines).
What do you think? What color is the dress?
Now here’s the thing– you can’t judge the color of the dress, for you are not looking at the dress, you are looking at a photo of the dress. And, believe it or not, photos can be misleading. For example:
So as people debated the color of the dress, they were really debating the color of the photograph. There arose scientific explanations involving rods and cones, screens and devices, lighting and reflections and more. At the end of the day… (according to a better photograph, the makers of the dress, and numerous eyewitnesses) the dress was blue and black. What do you think of this photograph?
So yes, the dress is blue and black. And I admit, when I first saw the original picture, I said ‘White and Gold.” Upon multiple viewings, I thought, “It’s clearly white and gold.” Then suddenly I saw a modified version of it with a decent explanation of the phenomenon and I looked back at the photo– and I saw a blue and black dress! Pretty dang weird. Then, I looked again and it was white and gold! I couldn’t help but wonder if it was a tricky gif, but no, it was a regular picture. So weird.
But that’s sometimes how life can be.
I’ve struggled with depression for a few years now. So I am actually pretty used to having a hard time seeing the truth.
I can look at my life and feel that everything is awful and be filled with despair. I am sure that nobody likes me and that I am a failure. Positively sure. But when I take a step back and re-examine how things really are– have a good job, studying to get my Masters degree, loved by my family, good friends, creative outlets, nice home– I realize, “Wow, perhaps things aren’t as bad as they seem.”
But at the end of the day, no matter how much I know something is true, the appearance of the truth is true as well. Confusing? Yeah, I know. But here’s the thing. Various people did an analysis of the photo and looked at the colors in the dress. Here’s what they found.
As you can see, the main two colors in that photograph are definitely not blue and black (though it’s definitely not white and gold either). The picture has a brownish, purplish, grayish dress. Yes, the dress is blue and black, but the photo is as real as the dress. Just because you find out the true colors of the dress, that photo still exists and it still contains a confusing set of colors. Perhaps the lighting is bad, perhaps there is a difference in how you and I differentiate blue and purple, but at the end of the day, the colors in the photo must be judged on their own.
Likewise, just because I know that things aren’t as awful as they appear, the appearances are, in a way, as real as the truth. That’s the issue with emotions. Your emotions might seem to lie to you, but they still exist and still must be reckoned with. Yes, “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” But just because you don’t let it run the show doesn’t mean you stop listening to it. Sometimes I have strong emotions just because I’m hungry; other times it’s because I’m in great need of companionship. If I ignore my emotions and my feelings, at the end of the day I’ll be weaker because I didn’t eat and because I didn’t reach out to a friend when I needed them.
I tend to ignore myself sometimes. Tooth hurts? Just wait it out. Feeling under the weather? No need to take medicine, I’ll be fine. I’d rather just weather the storm than go to a doctor or a counselor or a friend. But our emotional reality often points to a greater spiritual reality, physical reality, or relational reality. And if we ignore our emotions, our feelings, our pain, our need, our joy, our struggles, our weaknesses, our desires, our longings, we miss out on some of the strongest ways that God speaks to us. Just because they are not always grounded in fact doesn’t mean they can’t point to a higher truth.
Cru, Campus Crusade for Christ, has used the analogy of a train in their Four Spiritual Laws presentation of the gospel. “This train diagram illustrates the relationship among fact (God and His Word), faith (our trust in God and His Word), and feeling (the result of our faith and obedience) (John 14:21). The train will run with or without a caboose. However, it would be useless to attempt to pull the train by the caboose. In the same way, as Christians we do not depend on feelings or emotions, but we place our faith (trust) in the trustworthiness of God and the promises of His Word.”1
Man, do I agree with most of this. But if we relegate our feelings to the caboose, saying that we don’t really need them (the train will run with or without a caboose), we move in a dangerous direction. Take it to its extreme, we find similarities with Gnostic thought (matter=evil) and ascetic behavior (avoidance of all indulgence). I know this is not the intent of Cru, but it’s something that must be said.
How do we reconcile the image of the caboose and this statement from CS Lewis? “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” Perhaps we shouldn’t let feelings drive the car– or else we might end up off a cliff or living in a McDonalds Drive-Thru (“Hmm… a third McRib sounds good!” but it might be better to let them be at least be a back seat driver and listen to them occasionally, rather than shove them in the trunk or leave them at home.
People who go through or have gone through pain, loss, depression, anxiety, or other emotional trials or disturbances always must fight the messages they hear either from voices in their head (literal or figurative), people around them (loved ones as well as strangers), and pop culture (talking heads to general consensus): “Why can’t you just get over it?” “Why do you keep dwelling on the past?” “Your emotions are lying to you.” “Those people are just weak.” “You’re just ignoring the truth.” “If you just have more faith…” “If you just took medication…” “You could fix this if you just tried harder.” “I thought you were seeing a counselor– why isn’t that working?” “Ugh, I’m tired of hearing about this.” And so on. They must keep their emotional reality to themselves and pretend that everything is alright.
So at the end of the day, the dress is blue and black. But it appears to be white and gold. And the photo is periwinkle and brown. And we must reconcile all of this and continue to try and see the truth.