“Wait, I didn’t know you had a tattoo!”
“What? Oh, no, it’s not a tattoo.”
Anyone who has seen me in the last few months may have noticed a line of text written alongside my right wrist. No, it’s not a bracelet, paint, or even a tattoo, but a prayer that reads, “X:XXIII.” It’s not written in code, but in Roman Numerals—10:23—a favorite verse of mine from the Gospel of Luke that says, “Then turning to his disciples, privately he said, ‘Blessed are the eyes which see the things you see!’”
I love Jesus’ enthusiasm here when He’s speaking to the Apostles, but I hesitate to write that out on my wrist. Not because it’d be long, or because I’d be ashamed of literally wearing the Gospel on my sleeve, but because due to my synesthesia, it would just be too overwhelming to look at.
Whoa, let’s break that word down. Synesthesia is a neurological condition in which the mind involuntarily associates aspects of one of the senses with those of another sense, commonly with sight or sounds. You may have heard about it from the singer, Lorde, whose sounds turn to colors when she writes her music. In my case, synesthesia manifests itself through the association of color with numbers, letters, and, strangely enough, people. Ever since I can remember, the letter “M” was also “brown”, the number 4 was also “purple”, and my mom was also “red.” Because of this, reading, “10:23” on my wrist would mean staring at “white, lime green, bright gold, and hot pink” all day. I don’t know how or why this way of thinking developed, but I use it as kind of a mental shortcut to keep track of things. However, it also changes the way I look at life. It’s as if this world of color I’m already living in is somehow amplified.
So why talk about it? Well, let’s go back to Luke 10:23. To give some context, Luke Chapter 10 begins with the story of “The Seventy Sent Out,” (the title and number may vary with different translations), when Jesus commissioned seventy of the people who had been following His ministry to preach, heal the sick, and cast out demons in His name. And guess what, it worked! These, “sheep sent out among wolves,” returned in AWE of the ways the Lord had worked through them. They were able to see His power, might, and mercy, and Jesus and the Apostles were able to witness the immense joy of the Seventy as they realized the fullness of the Lord’s goodness. Jesus goes on to tell the Apostles in verse 24, “I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.”
What. A. GIFT.
Do you know how many prophets and kings there were before Jesus came? Countless. And all of them were meant to point towards something greater, someone greater, who would come and redeem the pain that sin and suffering had wrought on the earth. And He had come. He was there in Jerusalem feeding five thousand people, giving blind men sight, and extending forgiveness to the sinner. Blessed were the eyes of the Apostles, who stood beside Christ as His miracles and mercy began to lay the foundation for our faith. Blessed were the eyes of the Seventy Sent Out as they stood in the place of Christ, and witnessed demons flee. What goodness, what truth, and what beauty they must have beheld! Now let’s try something.
Look to your left. Who’s there?
Now to your right. Anyone?
What about an object that reminds you of someone? A favorite book, a pet, a picture? Look around you, friends! What is He trying to reveal to you today? I write those Roman Numerals on my arm every day to remind me that no matter what the Lord is showing me, these eyes are blessed to behold it, and who am I not to stand in awe before His blessings? I have made the X’s (a neutral beige) and I’s (a very light gray), a constant, quiet plea to the Lord, telling Him, “In all people (X), places (X), and things (X), may I see Your Goodness (I), Truth (I), and Beauty (I).”
I say this almost every day, and honestly, it’s hard to remember to look for goodness, truth, and beauty in everything. I’m definitely the kind of person who when I experience even the slightest inconvenience, I need a minute (or 10) to be really dramatic about it. Constantly hearing about the state of our culture can be exhausting, and so often I’m tempted to be pessimistic or even apathetic towards all of the noise. But despite any annoyance or displeasure we may experience, at the end of the day we must be faithful to the idea that whatever the Lord is doing, there is goodness in it, there is truth, and, even if it feels gross and ugly, there is beauty.
A question I often get when people learn about my synesthesia is, “What’s my color?!” They get excited and, due to some disappointed reactions I’ve gotten, sometimes secretly hope they actually like the color they are in my head. But honestly, there is very rarely a correlation between the person’s color and who they are. They just are. That’s not to say that the colors themselves don’t remind me of other things, like the warmth of a pale yellow sunbeam peeking through a window, or the stillness of a slate gray sky on the first day of October. I just need to remember the Lord has brought this soul before me, and I am called to serve and to love the one to whom it belongs. Anything else I see is a gift.