The sky is blue, except for brief periods at sunrise and sunset, when we see the light refracting differently through the atmosphere. Ours is a blue world, above and below. Photographs from space show our planet, covered with water and clouds, is mostly blue.
And yet, many languages do not have separate terms for blue and green. In Swedish, “the word blue was used to describe black until the early 20th century,” says the entry for the color blue in Wikipedia.
Tell yourself the sky is green. Or describe the noontime sky as black. Does it matter?
I can’t imagine lacking the words to describe the sky, the ocean, blue eyes, a larkspur, a sapphire. The color blue is fundamental to our understanding of the world, of reality itself.
What if there are spiritual realities, though, that we cannot adequately express? What if you had to describe something and had no words to do it justice?
“Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb,” said an angel to John, Jesus’ dearest friend. In exile at the end of his life, he received a vision.
“[The angel] carried me away in the Spirit… and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal… pure gold, as pure as glass.” (Rev. 21:9-11, 18)
It is a dazzling vision. The city is like a jewel, jasper, crystal, gold… You can sense John’s struggle to find the right words, his desire to communicate its magnificence and grandeur. In the end, we catch a glimpse.
That’s what faith does: it gives us vision, and transforms us in the process. Without it, we are like people who lack the word for blue. To understand spiritual realities, we need God’s help.
“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him—but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit.” (1 Cor. 2:9)