As a child, I loved the swirling colors and shapes that emerged through the eyepiece of my kaleidoscope; infinite complexity effortlessly springing forth from a few simple glass shards. With every shake of the scope, brilliant asymmetrical patterns emerged for a moment and, just as quickly, disappeared forever with the next shake of the tube.
Variety and uniqueness infuse God’s creation. Ostriches and anteaters, elephants and beetles all declare the ingenuity of God. Thunderstorms, waterfalls, the rustle of leaves on an autumn day, and the sound of a spring shower combine to create lush symphonies that the LORD listens to, night and day. And while most believers are enthralled with the richness of God’s diversity and complexity in nature, the embrace of God’s love for variety often stops at the church door.
Why is our response so different, when it comes to individuality in the Body of Christ? Each believer has been given a unique revelation of God, and even the simplest of us understands the complexity and brilliance of Christ in a special way.
In spite of this, most congregations look more like a swarm of roosting starlings than a bio-diverse tropical paradise. Crowding together within their cultures, believers tend to look with suspicion on those who do not resemble them, either culturally or spiritually. It is as if parents decided that their children must have red hair and green eyes to be a part of their family. And yet, diversity is God’s norm. Christ comes in many flavors, all righteous. Creative, inquisitive, extravagant, restrained, thoughtful, impulsive, quiet, loud, flamboyant and nit-picking. We treasure this truth with our children, and value their uniqueness. When my oldest son, Karl Daniel, was born with Downs Syndrome, we were forced to make many adjustments, both in our expectations for him and in our own plans for the future. What we found, however, was that beauty quickly sprung from ashes and that our son had been given a relationship with God that has inspired and transformed our lives. Each member of our family has a far richer life because of him.
It is most often in our spiritual community that the value of individuality is lost to us. Is it really possible that the God who created uranium and krypton fell into exhausted mediocrity, when it came time to make man in his own image?
We often fear the unknown and unfamiliar. Yet, we believe that God will do more than we can ask or think. It is not surprising, then, that He does the unimaginable through the lives of those people we least expect Him to use. Every day should be somewhat like opening an advent calendar, finding an unexpected prize behind each door that we open. In reality, if we seek Him we will find Him, but in the least expected places, within each member of the Body of Christ.
Without change, even the most beautiful form becomes mundane. A kaleidoscope that never changes will not hold your interest for long, no matter how beautiful the image it is stuck on.
So, when we see our own divine gifts with clarity, and yet cannot recognize the graces that God has bestowed on our brother or sister, remember that even if you and yours are vastly more gifted than those around you, “when the Jews crossed the desert with God, they only moved as fast as the slowest Israeli.”