Leaf peeping, or viewing autumn foliage in its full splendor is one of my all-time favorite activities.  Last fall we discovered a new leaf peeping and hiking spot called Purgatory Chasm in Sutton, MA.   The closer we got to Sutton the more vibrant the leaf colors seemed to get.  They were really just so breathtaking that I kept spontaneously yelling out, "Just look at those colors!  Can orange get any more vibrant than that?  Hey, can someone get a picture while we’re moving?  No?  Okay, hold on, I’ll pull over."

It was during one of those pull-overs that I took off my sunglasses to adjust my camera settings and realized that my children had not been seeing the same pulsating colors that I had.  The trees and leaves were the same, but because I had been wearing sunglasses with polarizing, rose-tinted lenses, the colors they had been seeing were completely different, honestly quite dull by comparison.  No wonder they weren’t as enthusiastic as I was.

Well, I couldn’t stand the kids not experiencing the splendor that I was, so for the rest of the drive I passed my sunglasses around.  After that they were the ones shouting and pointing.

Looking at fall foliage through polarizing, rose-tinted sunglasses is a great analogy for looking at life through the lens of the Christian faith.  Scientifically speaking, here’s why, in two parts.

Part One:  Polarization does not enhance a scene by adding anything to it, but by filtering out a light haze that is cast over a scene due to the disorganized way that sunlight reflects off objects.  In layman’s terms, polarization restores our view of the world to its proper clarity by optically removing the sun’s glare.

The same restoration of our soul happens when we are baptized into the Christian faith.   When God created the world, he created it to be good (Genesis 1 – 2:2).  When Adam and Eve sinned, humankind’s perception of good and evil became disorganized and a secular haze was cast over our view of world.  Through baptism and ongoing repentance, that secular haze is filtered out, and our view of the world is spiritually reorganized to be in line with God’s goodness.  In layman’s terms, faith in Jesus Christ restores our view of the world’s goodness by spiritually removing sin’s glare.

Part Two:  As with polarization, the color of a piece of glass alters nothing about the scene that is being viewed through the glass--it only changes the viewer’s perception of it. But here’s the kicker.  How we perceive life has an enormous impact on how we live life.

Christians and non-Christians live amid the same historical and current events, but when we Christians look at these events through the lens of faith, our view of them is colored with the hope of heaven.  Our view is further rose-tinted with things like: peace that is beyond understanding, unconditional love from God, the supernatural ability to forgive and be forgiven, access to God’s mercy and grace, and much, much more (Philippians 4:6-7; Romans 8: 1, 38-39; Ephesians 4:25-32; and Hebrews 4:16).  Non-Christians are missing all of this, and not surprisingly, they live very differently because of it.

Sometimes the phrase, "looking through rose-colored glasses" is spun negatively, implying that someone isn’t in touch with reality, but scientifically speaking, as I’ve explained, nothing could be farther from the truth.  And the same applies to looking at life through the hopeful, loving, forgiving, and merciful lens of Christianity.  It is as spectacular as leaf peeping with polarizing, rose-tinted glasses, and then some.  It is flat out amazing!

A great family faith exercise this fall would be to get a pair of polarizing, rose-tinted sunglasses and a pair of non-polarizing, blue-tinted sunglasses and go on a leaf-peeping adventure.  We can compare which sunglasses provides the most brilliant view of the foliage and have discussions with our children about the many ways that seeing through the first pair is like seeing and living life with a Christian worldview.

Of course all physical, emotional, intellectual, or spiritual beauty that we experience on earth is but a foreshadowing of the splendor of heaven, so we can conclude our faith exercise by reading Revelation 4.  In it St. John tells us that God’s throne is encircled by a rainbow resembling an emerald and set in a crystal clear sea of glass.  Now, I’m pretty sure we’re not going to need any special glasses to help us experience splendor of that magnitude.

Copyright 2010 Heidi Bratton