The Blind Man’s Rainbow
Can a man who has been blind since birth believe in the rainbow?
Think about it.
He has no concept of color.
He has no context for the fragmentation of sunlight that is necessary to create the rainbow.
He can’t touch the rainbow.
He can’t understand why this common phenomenon impacts the sighted the way that it does.
So. How can he believe in something that he cannot experience?
Maybe if we asked him he would tell us why he believes.
“Sir, could you please tell me why it is that you believe in something that you cannot … well, um… could you tell me why you believe in the rainbow?”
“Child, I have never had eyes to understand what it is that I can’t see. But I was born with an imagination and I have had the witness of the sighted to help me put together a thought to what is that you think you see. Take a seat and let me describe what the rainbow looks like. I learned to ‘see’ it when I was 10 years old.”
It was a light spring rain that soaked the front yard that stretched out and away from the step that I was sitting on. I liked the way the rain felt as it hit my face, formed into bigger drops, and rolled down my cheeks to my chin and then fell away. Their individual thunder claps as they slapped my skin were captivating. I could hear lighter slaps of the rain hitting the grass and smell the dirt below it come to life in a muddy aroma. I felt alive sitting there on that step taking in the shower.
I don’t know how long I sat there before the rain slowed to a stop and I started feeling a hot glow on my face that faded in and out. That is how my mother found me. Sitting there with my face pointed to a sky that felt warm to me. I heard her sigh as she stepped onto the porch and then sat down next to me on the front step. There was a quiet pause that lasted a minute or two and then she said to me:
“Son, I wish you could see the rainbow that the sun has given birth to.”
“Can you tell me what it looks like, mom?”
She sat there for a little while and then she laid her hand across my head.
“Do you feel how my fingers are cupped across the crown of your head? Kinda like a small bridge?”
“Well, son, that is how the rainbow is shaped. It is like God has bridged His fingers across the sky but instead of a hand, He used seven bands of color to cup the world. I know you don’t understand color but think of them in this way..”
“The first color is red. It is a warm color like the blood that runs in your veins and it is a firm color like the skin on an apple.”
“Next comes Orange. It is like red except it feels lighter like someone dumped water across it and washed away some of it’s weight.”
“After Orange comes Yellow. I love yellow because I smell lemons when I see it. It is bright like how the sun felt on your face after the rain had stopped.”
“Green is the middle band. When I close my eyes and think of green, I can smell grass and hear summer. It is a living color.”
“Many people like the next color. Blue reminds them of the sky or the ocean. I guess you could say that blue feels like open spaces. I don’t know why but I am reminded of blue by the skin of a ripe plum.”
“The last two colors are indigo and violet. They are very similar in how they look. They feel like that fuzzy bathrobe that I used to put on you after a bath. They smell like the lilac bush that grows along the back yard. ”
“Mom…. I wish I could see them the way that you do. But it’s ok. I can hear the rainbow now. ”
“Really?! So what does a rainbow sound like?”
“It sounds like a lullaby that starts all quiet but it keeps getting louder as more people join in to sing. It makes me want to stand on my tip toes to see if maybe the sounds will pick me up. I know they can’t because they are like rocks that my fingers could go through. I know that doesn’t make sense but that is how I hear the rainbow.”
“Aww, sweetie, that is perfect. The rainbow is the same way. It is there but no matter how hard we tried we wouldn’t be able to get to it on our own. Maybe that is why God gave it to us as a promise. A promise is not something that we can grab with our hands. Instead it is a hope that takes ahold of our hearts.”
When the old man had finished telling his story, he asked me a strange question.
“Do you believe in rainbows?”
I think I knew what he meant. And I wondered…. could I describe a rainbow to somebody else.
…always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you… ~ 1 Peter 3:15