So You're Different
Being "different" often has a different meaning to different people. Depending on who you ask, we can
find people who understand us, misunderstand us, embrace us, reject us, support and love on us, while there may be those who never give us a chance or abandon us. People may do any of these things because of our differences. Our differences in looks, attitude, beliefs, behaviors can draw people to us or push them away. If we are unclear of who we are, we may find ourselves disliking the person we were created to be because of someone's dislike of our "differentness". Even the dislike of self can be so strong that it can have any of us working hard to change the very difference that is meant to be accepted and celebrated.
The buzz word differentness is diversity. It is spoken throughout many places of employment, but that is so because people generally find it difficult to embrace that which is foreign to them. Any community can grapple with diversity; the struggle to accept another's difference of opinion, dress, choices, etc. Opposition to diversity can show up anywhere people commune. So families, churches, the workplace, military, social and political organizations are not immune to diversity issues. Sometimes the very people who are rejected for their diversity associate only with people who think like and agree with them and eventually become like the people who rejected them, finding solace and little growth only in the company of those who look and act like them. Yet, for real personal growth to take place sometimes, we have to be courageous, compassionate and even a bit curious enough to grow in unfamiliar places, among people who have a different outlook on life.
I have discovered that in getting us to be productive Kingdom Citizens, Christ will often permit times of development by placing us in environments where people are so different from us. Though uncomfortable, God will use the experience(s) for our good. Amazing fruit will be produced from the encounter. Yes, a harvest of pleasantries will yield before us due to our exposure to not so much the likeness in others, but the unlikeness. Opposites may or may not attract. It depends on who you ask, but living and working with those who challenge our belief system, cause us to rethink , and give us reason to hold fast to our faith in God is essential. The differences that others have and even our differences are crucial to personal and communal development. We are not all fully developed spiritually, intellectually and emotionally. Diversity plays a huge part in getting us to a place where we perceive life, people and ourselves better. Usually one can tell who has been exposed to a difference of opinions or customs by what comes out of their mouth. Words of love, hate, anger, peace, bitterness, compassion, cynicism, hope, despair, encouragement, or faith, spew out based on exposure or the lack of exposure to diversity.
Understand that I am not advocating befriending people for their differences in immoral and criminal stances. Neither am I suggesting that we take on every opinion, culture, and belief. We would go insane. What I do hope to convey is that there should be a healthy appreciation for differences that lead to betterment and good. The Lord teaches us much through different situations and different people. We should not be myopic in our thinking and shrink from the growth that comes from watching or hearing someone's diversity. I know that many dare not take the risk to accept and own their diversity and to learn to appreciate the diversity in others. To do so is uncomfortable and brings unwanted hostility from those who share your "likenesses". Still, wholeness and simple enrichment can be had by opening our hearts and minds to the diversity that the Lord created. He does not change, yet he has created people who posses great abilities to care, love, create, and help because of the differences they possess.
I strongly encourage you today to embrace your differences, whether physical, intellectual, etc. You know what they are. Do not hide or try to remake them into something accepted by others. They add to your wonder and greatness. Know that those who love, respect, and see value in you will not try to darken the beauty of your diversity. Glow in your differentness. Grow in your unlikeness. Love the total you. Go and change environments for the better with your diversity.