How would you describe a rainbow to a colour blind friend?
Which words would you choose to convey joy to someone who has felt only neutrality or depression since they were 14?
What might you sign to a deaf neighbour to prepare them for the moment of turning on their first hearing aid?
We often take our life for granted, particularly our experiences of a full spectrum. Whether that is a full spectrum of colour vision, emotions, hearing, or other gifts: we hardly know what we have got until it is gone, or we don't know what we were missing until we experience it.
The first time
I have been fortunate in the past few months to witness first-times relating to these three examples, directly or indirectly. The blessing of newly experiencing something in its full array of beauty is overwhelming, and impossible to grasp until it is yours.
As a colourblind female, I am part of a rare group seeing very little colour. A rainbow looks more like a faint jet stream to me than something awe-inspiring. While I get occasional glimpses of the vibrancy, the full spectrum of colour is lost on me.
Aside from the daily issues this poses—'go ask the man in the green t-shirt', 'see my edits in red'—I am not easily phased as I have never known any different. I would love to have colour vision and can faintly conceive of the magnificence of the world in technicolour, but I do not know what I am missing out on.
Recently, however, I have discovered a growing number of videos of colourblind people around the world trying new technology for certain types of colourblindness. YouTube now has dozens of videos of people trying special sunglasses and experiencing colour for the first time.
There are few things as exquisite as seeing someone overwhelmed by how green a leaf is, where there had been just greys before. The depth and subtleties are unfathomable until they are savoured, yet most people hardly blink an eye when a vivid violet flower crosses their path.
There has also been a surge of videos of those who have never heard anything receiving a hearing aid for the first time. The moment they hear the world exists they are so overwhelmed they can do nothing but beam and cry.
Perhaps my most striking experience of a full spectrum, however, was with one of my best friends. I have known her for about five years—only half the years she has battled with depression. Her days have been filled with a downcast outlook, or at best, neutrality.
Few moments of happiness and joy have been hers in the past decade, and where they have existed they have been fleeting. When coupled with chronic pain and fatigue, she was emotionally, physically and spiritually drained. Months of being bounced around medical professionals turned into years, and the number of medications grew so she could not count her daily pills on two hands.
We are blessed to have a loving and faithful church family. When I suggested we might raise financial support to put her on an experimental neuroplasticity-based course as a last resort, this was met with varied opinion. With good reason too, as the curriculum of the course looks, from the outside, like a new-age, pseudo-scientific, motivational course.
However, another dear friend had completed this course with the most drastic turnaround in physical, emotional and spiritual health. With hope a number of supporters contributed to fund the life-changing three day course.
Two days after the completion of the course I met with my friend. In the previous 36 hours she had packed, cleaned and moved all her belongings from one house to another. And here she was, at 10pm on a Friday night, helping me ice 120 cupcakes for a wedding the next day.
Not only was she physically alert, she was emotionally and spiritually alive as if for the first time. What would have previously brought her to thoughts of suicide and days of bed-rest seemed to take less effort than swallowing. She marvelled at her fresh experience of a full spectrum of emotion and energy; she had laughed and cried from joy, sadness, excitement, frustration, and hope. Emotions from both directions were not a familiar neural path to tread, and she was so thankful to feel something other than despair for a whole day.
She described her experience as if being in a dark room during the middle of the day, when curtains were suddenly pulled back and sunlight flooded in. 'Why were those not opened before, how did I not see what I was missing?' is the response, as warm rays washed over her.
Anticipating the full spectrum
The experience of a full spectrum of emotion, colour vision, hearing, and all the other gifts is a true blessing. We take it for granted and don't know what we are missing until we glimpse it. The beauty of God's provision for us is that He has given different gifts and experiences of a spectrum. While I may not see the full spectrum of colour, I appreciate the sound of tapped piano keys and the use of my limbs.
God's provision allows us to experience what we believe are full spectrums, yet after this life we will behold even more. The highest joys, the brightest colours, the most pleasant sounds on earth are nothing compared to the full spectrum of these in heaven. Rejoice in your earthly gifts, and anticipate the perfect spectrums of all beauty on the other side.
Harriet Knox lives in windy Wellington, New Zealand. She works for the Government, loves animals, and cannot function well without a gym membership. She became a Christian at University and attends Gracenet Community Church.
Harriet Knox's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/harriet-knox.html