1 Corinthians 12:4-6 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.
Its spring and once again it is time to prepare the garden for the budding flowers. In fact some of them are starting to push their way through the winter soil into the light of the springtime sun. I love this time of year. Not only does it bring hope of warmth after a long, cold winter, but also it brings beauty in the blossoms of the spring flowers, each different in their own way. The crocuses huddled closely together in clumps of purple, yellow and white are typically the first to show their color. Then there are the daffodils, lilacs, tulips, forsythia, hyacinths and more, each one with its own special beauty, fragrance and color. Later the azaleas, dogwoods and peonies add to the beauty of the landscape.
When I work in my garden, I grow to value all of the plants, tenderly caring for each one in its own way with no expectation for them be all the same. I learned that there are plants that need light and those that don’t. There are other plants that need a lot of space and ones that can be planted very close together. There are plants that work all winter long to produce only one beautiful blossom for a very brief time, some that produce multiple blossoms simultaneously and then others that just stay green all season. In fact the diversity of these creations is the source of the garden’s beauty.
It is no secret that we have a creative God who loves diversity. He created diversity in nature, in science and in each of us, His children. Every single creation has purpose, value and is designed to work together in a balanced relationship. It amazes me how we can appreciate God’s diversity in nature and in our garden. We can appreciate the intricacies of the lily and simplicity of the crocus. But when it comes to ourselves as unique creations, this very foundational fact of diversity and differences can be the source of insecurity, conflict and doubt. Why is this the case? Why can’t we see our differences and appreciate our uniqueness in the diversity we see? Instead of appreciating the beauty God created, we fall into the dangerous pit of comparison opening the door to shame, judgment or pride.
I recently facilitated a workshop at a women’s conference using the concepts of Gary Thomas in his book “Sacred Pathways”. This book directly addresses our differences as believers in how we relate to God and experience Him. The first time I heard about this idea, it made a lot of sense and gave me permission to appreciate who I am as God created me. But as I studied it, presented it and received feedback from some of the women at the workshop, I realized that this goes even deeper than just an awareness. I discovered, by listening to other women share their feelings, that many of us belittle ourselves because of our God given differences. God created us different for a reason. Yet when we see the gifts and abilities of our sisters and brothers, we measure our value in comparison to them. Remember how Paul compared the Body of Christ to the human body in his letter to the Corinthians? He explained the importance of the unique body parts functioning together in cooperation. God created each of us with different gifts and abilities and it is in our diversity that He designed us to work together in unity. It is easier to say than to do, but if we can appreciate the beauty of a garden and the value of each plant in that garden, why can’t we give ourselves and each other the same admiration and support for the gifts and abilities that God has given us?
Father God, You are a creative God, your handiwork is beautiful in nature and takes my breath away, whether it is a sunset, a thunderstorm or the budding of springtime flowers. Just as I can appreciate all the beauty I see around me, help me to see the beauty you have created in me. Remove the internal voices of doubt, shame or comparison. You have designed me for a purpose, help me to see that purpose, have confidence in that purpose and step into my world to glorify You. Amen