both-and God

Isn’t diversity a funny thing?  I mean, on one hand, we look for people who are just like us and it makes us light up.  Like Gracie at the library recently, she made fast-friends with a couple little girls who looked like her, brown skin, curly hair, and dark eyes. A week later she asked, “Are we going to the library with my friends?  The black ones?”  To my surprise, she was referencing these friends she had made who looked like her, not the friends (lots of whom have tan skin and dark hair) we normally spend time with.  Why was that?  Is it because we’re constantly trying to find commonalities and for kids, that can come in concrete ways like skin color and hair texture?

And like me when I searched and searched for like-minded homeschooling mamas to be around.  I tried this homeschool thing on my own and it came up short.  I tried it with a group that looked a lot like traditional school when they got together and I wasn’t satisfied.  But when I stumbled into Wild+Free, I knew I had found my people.  Nature-loving.  Freedom-loving.  Creative at heart.  And it didn’t stop there.  Because of my pursuit for something different, Jesus led me to a rich-community (read:  Church) of women.  This part of the story wasn’t because I was striving; in fact, I wasn’t even looking.  The striving came when I hunted and tried and pursued different groups.  The soulful part, His Church, came when I least expected it.  God brought our family to a group of families that is like-minded in lots of ways when it comes to homeschooling and parenting; and it’s the likeness that’s refreshing.  It doesn’t stop there, though, because while we are like-minded in many ways, we are also diverse in many ways and that’s also refreshing.

I think of God’s Family, one that’s full of diversity.  Age.  Race.  Gender.  And more.  And I know, we need differences in our lives.  We need each other so that we can be a picture of God’s Kingdom here on earth.  I recently started reading the book, “The Survival Guide for the Soul,” by Ken Shigematsu, and one passage in particular stuck out to me.  Ken wrote about different ways we experience God based on Godly-men of the past, like Francis and Thomas and Ignatius.  When thinking about it, I knew my heart leaned toward a Franciscan style of experience, one that connects with God best through beauty, Creation, and stories.  I realized quickly, though, that while that’s my natural bent, I find value in the other styles.  In fact, it’s not just a value, but a need.  I need people who experience God through studying Scripture and I need people who experience God through quiet meditation or serving others because they teach me how to experience God in those ways, to stretch me and challenge me and grow me.

This is what diversity does.  It stretches.  Challenges.  Grows.  If I always spend time with people my age, I forget the value of curiosity and playfulness that children bring or the value of wisdom that older people bring.  If I spend all my time with people whose skin is the same as mine, I forget there are different stories and histories and lifestyles that reflect Jesus.  If I spend all my time with Franciscan-God-experiencers, I forget the value of the Bible or servanthood or solitude.

Not surprisingly, this all reminds me that God is a both-and God.  He is Father and King.  He is likeness and difference.  I find value in the similarities I see in people, like God would look at me and say, “You look like me because I made you!”  But I also find value in the differences I see in people, like God would look at us and say, “You look like me because I made you!”

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