Living in Unity

DSC03514Last month, my husband and I took a quick trip to Florida, mostly to get away from our Nebraska winter for a few days. While we were there we spent a day at Epcot. If you’ve been to Epcot you know it was designed to look somewhat like a giant World’s Fair. Its purpose is to celebrate man’s achievement in technology and science and in international cultures.

But what I came away with after that day at the park was not so much a greater appreciation of man as it was a greater appreciation of our Creator God. We were there during the International Flower and Garden Festival so we saw exhibit after exhibit of all types of flora and fauna from around the world—flowers in all shapes and sizes and miniature Japanese trees that were 35 years “in training” and still only a foot tall.

In one building we stood in a giant two-story aquarium and marveled at the sheer variety of sea creatures on display. In another we sat through a multi-dimensional film celebrating the vast variety of creatures that inhabit our land masses. But honestly the arena that brought home God’s infinite creativity to me the most was simply watching all the people.

Epcot welcomes more than 10 million visitors every year, and though we went on an ordinary Monday in March, we still were among thousands of other visitors. And after about four hours of walking, we were very ready to just sit and watch them. Better than any aquarium, the constant flow of people walking by us as we sat on a bench in the French section enjoying our strawberry crepes and ice cream was incredible in its variety.

People of all shapes and sizes and colors and nationalities rambled by. And after a few minutes of simply watching, I began to notice something–here and there–people walking by sporting headgear that looked like this:

mouse ears

From then on, we started counting all the Mickey Mouse ears we saw. I don’t remember our final number, but what I do remember was the amazing variety. There were traditional ears, fancy ears, ears with bling and ears without, ears that matched and ears that stood out from all the others, pirate ears, princess ears, wizard ears, bride and groom ears and every other type of mouse ears you can imagine.  In fact, there were so many different options walking by us, I wasn’t a bit surprised to see racks and shelves full of them in just about every gift shop in the park.

Why in the world do we need so many different types of mouse ears? I’ll tell you why . . . because not only has God created mankind in infinite variety physically, he also created us with different personalities, tastes, backgrounds and opinions. Which is what makes this—this living in community together—so wonderful. It’s also what makes this so hard.

I think Christ must have known the difficulty that comes with community. After all, his closest friends included a zealot and a tax collector. That’s like putting a Democrat and a Republican on the same committee–there’s gonna be sparks, folks!  Maybe that’s why his last command to his disciples was to LOVE ONE ANOTHER. And maybe that’s why his final prayer was a plea to the Father for our unity.

Like Julie said last week, we aren’t meant to walk through this Christian life alone. We need Christ and we need each other to be truly effective.

In Ephesians 4:16 Paul tells us why:

 “He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.”

I love that analogy of the body. The heart is a vital organ to the body, but without the veins and arteries to connect it to the lungs and other parts of the body, it would be worthless. We need each member–we need each other–to accomplish all God has made us to do.

So how do we work together . . . live in unity . . .  when we are all so different? The key is Christ. He is the glue that holds it all together. He is the One who allows us each to use our own special gifts and talents—not so we can compare ourselves with each other, not to judge those who are different or tear each other down—but to help each other grow.

I’ve been so encouraged by the stories some of you have shared with us this semester.
As Bethany, Bonnie, Sunshine and Julie shared with us, I could see the truth of what Stacey said when we began this series. When we share our stories . . . when we share our lives . . . our story becomes “woven into the fabric of someone else’s story.”

Not only did their stories have an impact on my life, I saw within their stories community at work. I saw teachers who had been willing to share the wisdom they’d learned, through struggle and heartache, making a huge impact in each of their lives. I saw prayer group leaders and friends who were willing to speak truth and shape their perspectives for the better. I saw women coming alongside women, using their strengths to help each other grow. And most of all, I saw love.

The most exciting part about all we gain from our community here on Tuesday mornings is that it is not limited to the lives of the women within this room. The impact of what we learn from each other spreads to our children, our husbands, our co-workers, our extended families and beyond.

As we go into the summer months, I hope you don’t let this idea of community grow stagnant. Sometimes it’s so easy to go our own separate ways when there isn’t a set time or place to meet. Don’t let it be that way. Next week we are going to give you a variety of ways to stay connected over the summer. I hope you take advantage of at least one of them.

Some of the people in my life who have had the biggest impact on my marriage and my children are a group of women from this very community who pulled me into a summer Bible study and playgroup with them almost two decades ago. Though our children have long outgrown the playgroup stage, I still count many of them among my closest friends. I know they are praying for my “almost grown” children and my marriage as I am praying for theirs. And I can see the numerous ways they’ve helped me grow in Christ over the past eighteen years.

Maybe like Julie expressed last week, you’ve been coming to Tuesday Mornings and you still feel like you don’t fit in. Maybe you look at the person next to you and say, I could never be like her, or you see someone serving in a particular way and think, I could never do what they do.

Maybe that’s the point.

God doesn’t want us all to look exactly alike. He didn’t create us all to serve in exactly the same ways. But he did create you to walk alongside the other women in this community—to willingly sharing your own unique strengths and abilities for His ultimate glory.

In closing, I’d like to leave you with these final words from Ephesians 4, some good advice about what it looks like to live in unity:

“Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.  Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 and one God and Father, who is over all and in all and living through all.”  Ephesians 4:2-6

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