Authored by Dan Roselle
Some years ago, when my wife and I were living on a tropical island in the Caribbean, we had an unforgettable rainbow experience. While driving with another couple to spend the day at the beach, there was a brief rain shower and then a rainbow appeared, but this was like no other rainbow we had ever seen. It was huge! We could only see part of it, the part which touched the ground about 200 feet off to the left side of the road. We neared a safe place to pull over, and the man who was driving stopped the van and eagerly jumped out, exclaiming, “I’m going to touch the rainbow!”
The rest of us got out of the van and watched him as he ran toward the end of the rainbow, which from our perspective was very wide. We laughed, thinking he was a little crazy, until … we saw him go into the end of the rainbow! It was the first time that any of us had seen the end of the rainbow up-close like that. Suddenly this guy started to turn the colors of the rainbow—red, yellow, green, blue. He was actually inside the rainbow! We all saw the colors reflecting on him. It was amazing. The man kept running, though, and finally, he turned around and started walking back toward the van. His shoulders were a little droopy and he didn’t appear as enthusiastic as when he went flying out of the driver’s seat to chase the rainbow. “I never got to the end,” he said. “It was always in front of me, but I just couldn’t reach it.”
“What?!” the three of us yelled in unison. “You were in it! You were in the rainbow. You were turning colors!” But he didn’t believe it. He kept saying, “I could see it in front of me all the time. I never reached it.” Finally we convinced him that from our perspective he had reached the end of the rainbow. I’ve never forgotten that event and have often retold this story.
I recently researched online about rainbows and found some interesting information:
“A rainbow is an optical and meteorological phenomenon that causes a spectrum of light to appear in the sky when the sun shines on the droplets of moisture in the Earth’s atmosphere. It takes the form of a multicolored arc. Rainbows that are caused by sunlight always appear in the section of the sky directly opposite the sun.”1
This next part confirms what we saw happen to our friend.
“Even if an observer [of a rainbow] sees another observer who seems ‘under’ or ‘at the end’ of the rainbow, the second observer [like our friend, the driver] will see a different rainbow further off—yet, at the same angle as seen by the first observer. Thus, a rainbow is not a physical object, and cannot be physically approached.”2
So although our friend did reach the end of the rainbow from our viewpoint, he hadn’t reached it from his viewpoint.
Isn’t that the way it is with many things in life? We each see things from a different perspective. Two people can live in the same house, experience the same events at the same time, and they could both have a different perspective about that event, and sometimes even a different story to tell. It’s not that one person is right and the other is wrong, but it’s just a different perspective, a different viewpoint. There will be times when you’ll have to accept that someone’s view on a situation or experience will be different from your own, simply because you’re two different people. And there may even be times when you need to let go of your perspective and choose to see things in a new way, as someone else sees them.
Let me explain this with a story. In Luke 15, Jesus tells the parable of the Prodigal Son. There are three main characters in this story: the father, the older son, and the younger son. We are told that the younger son demanded his share of the inheritance before the father died, and then left to another country where he spent his money on “reckless living.” After spending all his money, there’s a terrible famine and the only work he can find is tending pigs. Finally, he comes to his senses and realizes that even his father’s servants are treated better than he is being treated, so he decides to return to his father, beg forgiveness, and ask for work as a hired hand. When the younger son returns home, he is surprised to see his father running to meet him. His father hugs him and kisses him and doesn’t even seem to hear when his son says, “I am no longer worthy to be called your son,” because the father calls for a feast to celebrate the return of his son.
Obviously, the father and son have two different perspectives of the same event. The younger son is so ashamed of his past behavior that he doesn’t even think his father will accept him as a son anymore. He hopes that he’ll at least allow him to be a servant. His perspective is negative, whereas the father’s perspective is all positive. The father still sees the son as someone he loves and cares for. He knows his son has made mistakes, but the joy of having him home again is overwhelming. “This son of mine was dead, but is alive again!” That’s how the father sees the return of his younger son. The son now has a choice: he can continue to see the situation despondently and negatively, or he can accept his father’s joyful perspective and take on the same attitude of hope and joy as well.
There’s another part of the story that has two different perspectives. When the older son hears about the celebrations for his younger brother, he is not at all pleased. He angrily tells his father, “All these years I’ve been slaving away for you and you never threw me a party.” He can’t understand why the father is treating his brother with such fanfare even though he made a mess of his life and wasted all of his share of the money.
You almost wonder if he has been holding these feelings in for years. He seems to be saying that his father is a slave-driving cheapskate, and that he as the older brother has gotten the shaft, the bad deal, compared to what his little brother is getting. He even refers to his younger brother as “this son of yours” rather than calling him by his name or saying “my brother.” The older son obviously doesn’t agree with the way his father is handling his brother’s return.
The father’s perspective is totally different. He remains calm, and rather than trying to answer all the feelings and accusations from the older son, he presents a different picture. He answers him in one simple sentence. “You are always with me and all that I have is yours.” Basically he’s saying, “If you wanted the fatted calf, you could have had it anytime you wanted. If you wanted a party, you could have had it.” Could it be that the older son was so focused on proving himself with his works that he never fully realized how much his father already loved him?
So once again we have the same event but two perspectives. The older son has to decide what perspective he’s going to choose. Will he stick with his personal viewpoint of anger and bitterness, or accept his father’s perspective of love, forgiveness, and celebration? Will he continue to feel that he was right, and that his father was unfair, or will he accept what his father told him, that he really could have had it all, all along?
Although in this story Jesus doesn’t tell us how the sons choose to see this event, I would like to think that they both chose to see things the way the father saw them, which was a perspective filled with love toward each of his sons. I believe that this story illustrates how much God loves us, His children—whether we’re making a mess of our life or doing everything just right and by the book. It’s almost as if both sons were, in a way, striving to reach the end of the rainbow in the sense that they were trying to be worthy of their father’s love or approval. The one son had screwed up and was trying to regain even a little speck of his father’s love; maybe he even felt that asking to be a servant was more than he deserved. The older son, on the other hand, worked faithfully and diligently year after year to prove his goodness to his father. And yet the whole time, the father saw each one of them in the center of the rainbow—in the center of his love. He always loved them. They didn’t need to keep chasing the rainbow; they just needed to accept how he saw things and rejoice in his love.
Regardless of how we might view our life choices, or the choices others have made in their lives, only God sees the full and complete picture, and He loves us just the same. God’s love for us and His love for others is pretty difficult to fathom. It’s supernatural. It’s mysterious. Maybe that’s what makes a rainbow so special, so mysterious. It’s sort of like God’s love. It’s beautiful. It’s something special, but who can really understand it?
The next time we see a rainbow, may we all remember God’s love for each of us, and mostly that His love for humankind transcends our carnal thoughts and feelings. He loves everyone in a way that we cannot fathom. Let’s thank Him for His love and do our best to share that love with others. May we each have the Lord’s perspective on others.
Read by Stephen Larriva. Music by Simon W. Copyright © 2012 by The Family International