By Pastor Paula Burchill
There is a pretty loud and powerful message in our culture—and that is that you should be your own person. Don’t be afraid to stand out in the crowd, be unique, be you, because you are the only you there is.
I like this message and I believe it, too. I believe that learning to love your uniqueness is so important and that we all have distinct, God-given gifts to share with the world.
But there is a part of me that also agrees with my farm girl college roommate who used to say, “Everyone should grow up with at least 4 kids in their family so they realize they aren’t all that important.”
This week, one of my kids had a choir concert. When I was a teen, I loved being in choir. I loved the shiver I would get when we sounded really good. But in order for a choir to sound really good, no one should stand out. Barring a solo, the goal of a good choir is to blend–to have all of your voices sound like they are one. You don’t want to be that unique voice that everyone can hear because you stand out in the crowd. Even when singing 8 part harmonies, blend is key.
Our kids play lots of sports. And while it is always important to play as a team, standing out is highly valued. Making the game-winning three-pointer, a diving catch in center field, kicking a last second field goal—there are lots of ways to stand out as an athlete. We love sports and what they teach—hard work, team work, practice, being a good winner and a good loser. But as I was listening to the choir this week, I found myself wishing there were more ways to learn to blend.
I believe that learning blend is a very important life skill. There are times when we is more important than me—when you have to keep the peace in a family or at work. When you are called to sacrifice for someone else—it happens a lot as a parent, but I think we also at times need to put our needs aside when a friend needs help or when we are working together for a common cause. Those are times when you have to say, I know I’m unique and my own person, but right now, it isn’t about me. Right now, there is a greater good I’m fighting for.
It is a tough balance. I like how Paul talks about it in I Corinthians 12. He says that Jesus’ followers are like a body. One part of the body can’t say to the other, “I don’t need you,” because all the parts are important. If there were no eye, how would we see?
I like this image because I think it holds being unique and blending in a nice tension. We are all different, and we all have different gifts to share, but when our first concern is getting noticed, something starts to suffer. And that is community.
Our kids’ lives seem to be more and more about getting noticed all the time. How many followers they have on Instagram, posting pictures of how much fun they had over the weekend—we all want others to notice us and to pay attention to what we are doing.
But maybe we also need to know how important it is to blend. Because while it is amazing to get noticed for an athletic achievement or an academic one, the fact is that most of the time in life, no one really notices you. But you still keep showing up. And that is ok and even good. Because it really isn’t about ME most of the time. It is about us—our church, our communities, our schools, our families. And when a bunch of unique folks can somehow blend together, it makes for truly beautiful music.
So blend. Let go of the limelight and soak up the feeling of really working with and supporting those around you. Because as the great Sunday School song says: All God’s children have a place in the choir. Well, so do you.