If you remember your high-school biology, the human eyeball (the retina, specifically) is equipped with particular cells, called cones, which sense and interpret color. We have three different types that determine the color we see. Don’t worry, none of this will be on the final exam. Just remember: More types of cones means more colors.
Since it was first broadcast, a particular episode of the Radiolab podcast has stirred up much conversation about colors.[i] To summarize, they began to ask the question: If a dog, a butterfly, and a shrimp (among others) looked at the same rainbow, would they see different colors?
Of course, to a large extent, we really don’t know, since none of those creatures can communicate directly with us. But the conclusion of the various scientists contributing to that episode was “yes.” For instance, your dog has color-receptive cones for two colors as opposed to three, which means his rainbow would have various shades of blue, green, and a touch of yellow. Compare this to the vibrant seven colors most humans see in the rainbow.
A butterfly, however, has five types of cones, which means the color combinations are beyond what we can see or imagine. This pales in comparison to the mantis shrimp, which is one of God’s truly intriguing creations. It can grow up to a foot long and looks like it swam through a tub of rainbow sherbet. It also packs one of nature’s most powerful punches, often knocking out its prey.
This aggressive little crustacean has sixteen cone types in its odd little eyes. Some people might wonder if it could see a massive spectrum of color for which we have no words. I say “could” because other researchers have since suggested[ii] there is more to seeing colors than types of cones—like how big your brain is and how much it can process.
That’s okay. I don’t want to be something that goes well with cocktail sauce anyway.
I do like to think in eternity God will open my eyes up to all the colors he created as I take in the wonder of creation fully healed.
Maybe this little detour into the anatomy of eyeballs is a coming attraction for the redeemed and restored universe. What is it Paul wrote? “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him.”[iii]
New Creature, New Eyeballs
Until then, I am a new creation and so are you. I’m going to go out on a colorful limb and say that as new creatures in Christ, we already have new eyeballs. No, we cannot see it all yet. Compared to what’s coming, it’s like looking through a veil, a mirror darkly.[iv] But we still see enough with our grace-healed eyes that a deeper reality comes into view. Let’s behold all of it.
Some of what God will show us is breathtakingly beautiful, some decidedly less so.
The fractured shalom of this world leaves enough heartache that you’ll be tempted to look away, to dull your vision, to not be bothered by it all.
Now see it all.
Before and After Your New Eyeballs
Before you saw only the silhouettes of human trafficking, now you see a face. When someone is bullied online, you notice the name of a real person being hurt. The weary burden of poverty is not theoretical when you welcome a family into your life. Racism mourned from a distance is now more personal through the eyes of a friend.
Sometimes the blindness is healed in an instant, sometimes in stages. Like the man Jesus healed in Mark 8, at first, we see people as blurry shapes and trees. But eventually, we see the imago Dei in each of them.
Take it all in. The horrible and the almost hidden.
When you allow the living God to awaken your soul and open your eyes, spiritual realities break into view, and some of them will break your heart.
But don’t stop there.
Feast your eyes upon the splendor of our great God at work.
Behold the power of the Resurrection unleashed in the here and now.
The freedom of forgiving someone . . . the shocking joy of answered prayer . . . a gentle word truly turning away the harsher one . . . you see it now: the whole world teeming with these dead-coming-to-life opportunities. Look closely and see not just the heartache but the healing. Not only the enemy at work but our greater Champion.
I’ve never once seen angels in chariots of fire. But I am learning to notice the miraculous power of God. With his help, on a good day, my vision is better. When you walk out of a grave, you see things differently.
Still, even with better vision, do we humans stand any chance of really making a difference?
Yes. A thousand times yes.
For Personal Reflection
Think back on your day. How did you get bogged down by the “chores of the day” and fail to notice the ways that God was actively working around you?
You’ve been reading from Greg Holder’s book, Never Settle. Want to be a difference-maker? Becoming one starts with choices—big and small. You are invited to be part of the restoration. Read chapter 1 for free here.
[i] Adam Cole, “Colors,” Radiolab, May 21, 2012, https://www.wnycstudios.org/podcasts/radiolab/episodes/211119-colors.
[ii] Ed Yong, “The Mantis Shrimp Sees Like a Satellite,” January 23, 2014, https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/phenomena/2014/01/23/the-mantis-shrimp-sees-like-a-satellite/.
[iii] 1 Corinthians 2:9, esv.
[iv] 1 Corinthians 13:12.