Celebrating our Differences
By Stuart Briscoe
Wouldn’t it be boring if everybody was the same as everybody else? Just imagine if we all thought the same, looked the same, talked the same, and acted identically! Of course there’s nothing fundamentally wrong about “boring”—I keep reminding my grandchildren of that as they appear to be allergic to it. But when I advocate “difference” I’m not talking about novelty for the sake of novelty or being different to put distance between ourselves and the pack. I’m really celebrating the fact that God loves structure and order and flexibility and infinite variety and sheer beauty– all at the same time! Check out a rose!
Take Jill and me! We have been together now for over fifty years–people speak of us in the same breath, “Jill and Stuart” and more often than not we are invited to speak as a team. Yet anyone who knows us knows that we are completely different. I know that people always say, “opposites attract” and it’s true. What they don’t tell young starry eyed couples is, “Opposites attract but if you’re not careful in about six weeks they’ll irritate.” Mature married couples have learned to celebrate the differences or as the French say, “Vive la difference” and if we don’t we’ll have marital problems!
Let me give you an example of Jill’s and my “opposite-ness.” When we take off on one of our long flights – 12 or13 hours is not unusual these days – I settle down to read a good book and Jill gets out her computer and starts to write a book! When we get home and find a few hours of “down time” I watch The English Premier League (football, the real kind!) and Jill writes a book! Do you get the picture? She’s wound a lot tighter than yours truly!
But there’s more. Like Jill, I have written more than my share of books but there the similarity ends. My titles are factual, informative and – let’s face it – prosaic. For example, “The Ten Commandments,” “The Sermon on the Mount,” “The Fruit of the Spirit” and “The Apostles’ Creed” although we did liven things up a bit with the latest offering entitled, “Holiness Without the Halo!” But these titles do not compare with Jill’s “Barefoot in My Heart,” “The Garden of Grace,” “God’s Front Door” and “Faith Dancing.”
However we both love God’s Word and we’re united in an intense desire to share it with others so that they will love it too. But my approach is to look at it systematically, exegetically, and analytically—doesn’t that sound exciting—while Jill tells me she likes to “Peek around the corner of the verse to see who’s hiding in the shadows.” I kid you not! In short Jill brings a fertile right brain to the Scriptures; I stick with my left brain.
People often tell us, “Stuart speaks to the head, but Jill reaches the heart” and I suppose they’re right. But what does that mean? To my mind it means God gave us minds to be informed, emotions to be moved, and wills to be exercised and in our communication of the Truth as it is in Jesus we need to take care to address all dimensions of the human being. To make this possible God gives different gifts to different people to ensure that a balanced presentation of His Word is available to a wide variety of people’s interests, needs and proclivities.
All that to say that while I think quite differently from my wife I love to listen to her teaching and enjoy reading what she writes. I must admit that I am puzzled sometimes. One day I asked her, “You talk a lot about “a deep place where nobody goes,” but if nobody goes there, how did you get there?” she replied, “That’s a left brain question” to which I replied, “Then may I, please, have a left brain answer?” and she said, “I don’t do left brain!!” A seasoned married man leaves it right there!
But let me tell you what I relish about Jill’s way of saying things. I love the deeply authentic and creative way she responds to what God is saying in her disciplined study of His Word. For instance my favorite poem is one she wrote years ago entitled, “Wings.” Here’s a brief excerpt:
“Give my words wings, Lord.
May they alight gently on the branches of men’s minds
bending them to the winds of your will.
May they fly high enough to touch the lofty,
low enough to breathe the breath
of sweet encouragement upon the downcast soul.”
Now my left brain immediately wants to analyze the alliteration—“words, wings, winds, will” “men’s, minds,” “low and lofty” “breathe and breath” and explore the imagery of words being like birds, of men’s wills being like branches that yield to gentle pressure, words on wings soaring to reach the lofty and then alighting softly besides the lowly—but that’s like plucking off the petals of a rose to examine its pistil and stamens.
But the undeveloped right side of my brain grasps with joy the fundamental idea that men and women who possess a love for God’s words are called to use human words to express sublime truths that God reveals in such a way that they reach all manner of people where they will be touched and encouraged and instructed and challenged to respond in faith and obedience, in reverence and awe.