I find that I am constantly drawn to the rom-com movie genre. I may dabble in a few action, drama and fantasy films, yet always drift back to the old faithful. Recently this led me to He’s All That. The classic makeover story. There is no need to go on, I’m sure you have guessed the ending already. The narrative of someone who once didn’t fit in becoming someone who does is appealing. At different levels, I think all of us have a desire to fit in. To feel like we belong but not at the expense of losing ourselves. That’s the dream isn’t it? Being true to ourselves yet also accepted by those around us and the wider world.
Difference, Western Culture and Me
As I listen to the Western culture around me I hear a mixed message regarding difference. It is celebrated, but not really. Slogans like ‘be yourself’ or ‘find yourself’ surround us. The culture speaks loudly about the value of diversity. Yet at the same time we constantly hear an equally loud message of reaching your full potential through what is deemed normal and desirable. So in the search for fulfilment, what we actually end up with is the unspoken slogan of ‘be what we expect you to be’.
I see the struggle of difference every single day in my own life. As a parent of neurodivergent children who are and will most likely always be considered ‘not normal’ I am in the front seat of navigating a culture that celebrates difference and at the same time excludes and pushes it to the side. At times it is heartbreaking, at other times it can take me to the moral high ground. But recently and more helpfully it has taken me to God and the delightful doctrines of the trinity and creation.
Distinction and Unity in The Trinity
As I look to God I am confronted with the beauty of distinction and unity. In the trinity we find the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit existing as one perfect unity. The Athanasian Creed seeks to summarise the teaching of Scripture:
That we worship one God in trinity and the trinity in unity,
neither blending their persons
nor dividing their essence.
For the person of the Father is a distinct person,
the person of the Son is another,
and that of the Holy Spirit still another.
But the divinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is one,
their glory equal, their majesty coeternal.
The triune God is one God, yet he exists in three distinct persons, working in unity for their mutual glorification. The Father rules and provides (Matt 6:9), the Son came to earth as a human being to bring reconciliation (Jn 17:4); the Holy Spirit reveals the truth, helps and guides (Jn 16:13–15). Chris Watkin writes, ‘Singularity and plurality, uniqueness and community, share a peaceful coexistence in a Trinitarian model of reality.’ The trinity, one and united, distinct and delighting in one another—seen, for example, in the baptism of Jesus (Mk 1:11). What a beautiful picture this is!
Distinction and unity existing in perfect harmony is so foreign to our human comprehension, understanding and experience. We too often mistake unity for sameness. But, of course, unity implies at least some level of distinction as well. When we think beyond the mystery of trinity in a single divine essence, to human community and the created world, unity unavoidably includes diversity.
Difference in Creation
I am comforted that woven into the fabric of our created world, there is beautiful diversity and unity. There is vast diversity in our plants, animals, weather. There are over 5 000 species of flowering plants alone. Each insect is different and has a unique role within their ecosystems. God has created a world full of difference, it is gloriously beautiful because of its diversity.
God has created human beings, with all our differences, equally his image bearers, lovingly crafted by and personally known by him (Ps 139:13–14). There are over 7 000 languages in the world; a multitude of personality types and personal preferences; we are created as one of two sexes, go through stages of development as we age, vary dramatical in our physical and mental attributes.
It is important to note here that there is huge complexity regarding the impact of the fall and curse on creation. Some of our difference is the result of the imperfections and evil now in the world, all our differences are at least tainted. But difference in and of itself is not fallenness or cursedness. The creation that was cursed was a good creation, beautifully and deliberately diverse.
The Beauty of Difference
These truths comfort my soul when it is troubled by the lies of the cultural message that my value, or the value of my children, is found in popularity or fitting in. These truths should challenge us all as we look to our friends, family, neighbours and colleagues. Do we delight in the difference we encounter all around us? Or do we become overcome with discontent and despair over what we don’t have? As we form our connections and friendships, do we create communities that are homogeneous and comfortable or ones that accept and enjoy the differentness of other people, with all the awkwardness and discomfort and delight?
These truths speak comfort and challenge to our churches, too. We often experience frustration with different personalities and the multitude of preferences for how we should do things. How helpful it is to remember the beauty that comes with difference! There is a special beauty that comes when a community accepts one another in all their diversity.
These truths teach me to block out the world’s message of ‘be what we expect you to be’ and instead lead me to embrace the difference that is present in my life due to neurodiversity. There is definitely chaos in our lives. Yet, in God’s grace, there is a beauty that can be found, too, when I take the time to notice it. Something beautiful is created out of the chaos. Yes, I sometimes feel frustrated and impatient when a child forgets that important thing they need for the day. Sometimes they forget exactly the same thing every single day (like brushing their teeth)! Yet there is also delight in seeing something incredible created from an idea that just popped into their head (when they were meant to be brushing their teeth!) or the focus and willpower to achieve some goal they are passionate about.
Praise God for the beauty of difference!
 Christopher Watkin, Biblical Critical Theory (Michigan: Zondervan, 2022), p.42.