Dwell In Unity

By Katie Helmreich

It was a beautiful summer evening. Perfect for prepping the driveway for new concrete. My job was to wet the gravel so it would compact well. I hummed to myself, taking in the stillness, as the sunshine peeked through the trees. I played with the spray of the hose watching the rainbows and waving pretty patterns. My husband, Ben, stopped over to mention that “gravel compacts best at 18% saturation.”

I burst out laughing! Here we both were, working toward the same goal at the same time and place, but our thoughts during the process couldn’t have been more different!

The stunning contrast between us at that moment has stuck with me vividly ever since. Our new driveway has held up great because of his attention to function, detail, and physics. Creating a great place to immerse ourselves in the beauty of our backyard was a big part of our goal. 

This contrast/complementary concept has been on my mind a lot lately.  “We’re all in the same boat” has been said more in the past 6 months than ever before! But there are a lot of different boats… an “empty nester” boat, a “college kid” boat, and our “the children have organized a mutiny” boat, just to name a few. To say we’re all experiencing the same thing would be crazy. But we have each learned to face our unique challenges and have begun to adapt to the shared scenario. Now we’re even seeing how contrasting “boats” can complement one another, connecting and supporting each other, in new ways!

As our work-from-home days together stretch on, I’m realizing that even though I’m “in the same boat” with my family we are still all experiencing each day differently. Sometimes I assume that our shared time means shared thinking. It’s rarely true. We are united in time, place, and goals more than ever before but we are not uniform! 

Ben and I are very different people. Meyer-Briggs says we’re completely opposite in every personality trait marker. We both have a wide range of skills and hobbies but few of them overlap. But rainbows vs 18% Saturation moments remind me of the incredible ways we complement each other. 

Our shared time at home together hasn’t changed who we are. We’re still as different as engine oil and watercolor. Sometimes it’s easy to get angry about our differences. But when we are each able to share from our own unique perspectives it adds fascinating depth to our conversation and richness to our relationship, even if we still don’t agree with each other!

As friends, neighbors, congregation members, coworkers, and citizens we have shared a lot of experiences. It is so easy to assume others are thinking or feeling just like us. It’s even easier to get angry when we find that they don’t… 

Life is complicated. We’re often tempted to simplify others down to one or two labels so that we can make sense of things. We shy away from real discourse about our differences because we fear it may further divide us. It takes a great deal more time and effort to really listen. But sharing our perspectives, experiences, and personalities with one another, seeking to understand even where we disagree, adds such richness to our community! 

Walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call – One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

Ephesians 4:1-6

 As sons and daughters of “the Father of all,” we are unified in God’s good plans and purposes. We are one in Christ!

And yet, this unity isn’t uniformity!

For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them.

Romans 12:4-6

We differ from one another in personality, ability, and calling because of the grace given to us. Our differences don’t necessarily make us opposed to or better than another. Instead, we’ve been blessed with multiformity. (Isn’t that a great word? It goes back to the 17th century, apparently.) 

Many of the niggling differences that stir up squabbles aren’t actually issues of right vs wrong. We experience situations through the lens of our personalities, our past, and our God given abilities. We understand them multiformly. And it’s okay. It’s better this way! Together we enjoy more complete perception and can support one another in our vocations! 

Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not supporting the idea that “everyone has their own truth.” Scripture is very clear on several points that the world loves to ignore. On issues of morality and doctrine it is even more important to have the conversations that lead to understanding and reveal truth! Of course we can’t sacrifice truth in favor of a shaky, false unity.

Rather, speaking truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into Him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

Ephesians 4:15-16

I think a lot of us are feeling division fatigue. We’re weary from navigating shifting social etiquettes and trying to find safe things to talk about. We’re disheartened seeing what friends post on social media. How can they see things so differently? How can we possibly regain a feeling of unity in this mess? Is it worth the emotional energy?

Let’s focus first on our unity in Christ. Let’s dwell in His peace together, even when we find we disagree. Spend time in real conversation. Let’s listen. 

The best novels have really great characters, characters with personality and quirks who defy the stereotype. We love unpacking the backstory and experiencing each scene from their perspective. What if we approached our conversations a bit like this? How might our relationships change if we seek to learn and understand the people around us more deeply as we experience our story together? Would it change how we react to each other’s differences?

Ben and I are neck deep in yet another project. There’s nothing particularly pretty in this one, but I’m doing what I can to help. It’s fun to weigh in with creative problem solving as things come up! I admit my eyes have glazed over a few times when he was describing the detailed bits of the plan. I get distracted by how capable and brave he is. I love the way he tackles things few others would attempt and makes them happen! I’m really glad he does most of the heavy lifting. And I look forward to taking over once we get to the painting!

We’ll continue to learn more about each other, working together, raising our kids, and serving the Kingdom. United in Christ. The Spirit will continue to work growth in our hearts as we walk with Him in hope. Together with the entire body of Christ, with multiform members, building up one another in love. 

As you navigate through relationships today, may God bless you with peace, opportunities to appreciate another’s perspective, and joy in understanding.

How good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity.

Psalm 133:1

Leave a Reply