I remember looking at magazines as a child and looking at two very similar pictures and being asked to find the differences in the image. Maybe children today aren’t given as many magazines, but a quick search tells me that there are still lots of apps and games that have these same ideas.
From a young age we are encouraged to look for the differences. Circle or click on the ways these things differ. Emphasize what makes them unique. This one has a cloud. That one is missing a fence post.
There is nothing wrong with being unique. There is a children’s book called The World Needs Who You Were Made To Be. And it talks about all the special qualities people bring to the world. The world does need people with different skill sets. It would not be useful if everybody wanted to be a fireman when they grew up. The world needs variety, and people performing different uses. Indeed, heaven is made up of infinite variety! It couldn’t be heaven without it!
“The angels of any one heaven are not together in one place, but are divided into larger and smaller societies in accordance with the differences of the good of love and faith in which they are, those who are in like good forming one society. Goods in the heavens are in infinite variety, and every single angel is as his own good.” (Heaven and Hell 41)
Heaven and earth are made up of lots of different kinds of people and that is according to order. We would not thrive if we were all the same. A variety of uses is necessary for the human race and for heaven to flourish.
However, unless we are celebrating the uses of each individual, I’m not sure pointing out the differences is entirely helpful. There are so many passages in the Heavenly Doctrine that talk about variety, but let’s take a closer look about what it says about this variety.
“The varied can have existence only in the constant, the fixed, and the sure.” (Divine Providence 190)
The constant, the fixed and the sure. Somehow that phrase brings extreme comfort to me. Think of a child. They like routines and schedules. And so do I. I like knowing the plan. Or even if I don’t know what the plan is, I like knowing that there is a plan. That the Lord is constant and sure.
Over the past several months I have been thinking quite a lot about the “Find the difference” pictures, and wishing that instead we could encourage people to spot the similarities. The pictures both have green grass. They both have a house. Look how brightly the sun is shining!
While the Lord does want us to each be our own unique person with the individual gifts we each have, He also wants us to use our gifts to create unity. And when differences arise, we are still supposed to look for the good.
“If it were so now, all would be governed by the Lord as one man; for they would be as the members and organs of one body, which, although not of similar form, nor of similar function, yet all have relation to one heart, on which depend all and each in their several forms, that are everywhere varied. Then would each person say, in whatever doctrine and in whatever outward worship he might be, This is my brother, I see that he worships the Lord, and is a good man.” (Arcana Coelestia 2358)
I could find many more passages, both that say that there is infinite variety in heaven and on earth, and also passages that encourage us to look for the good in others. The point is that variety and differences are useful and good when they look to the same end; when they are contributing to the same goal.
So I encourage you to find the similarities and find the common goal. Listen to different opinions. Step back and see what it is that the other person loves. It’s not so hard to find similarities if you are looking for them.
“This is my brother, I see that he worships the Lord, and is a good man.”