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I was asked several years ago to think of an (almost) daily practice, apart from spiritual disciplines, in my life that has been most formative. Then I was to connect how that practice has shaped my view of and relationship with God. Perhaps it’s because there are not many things I’ve practiced consistently, but one popped into my head immediately—morning coffee with my wife.

Jamie and I will be married 19 years next month. With few exceptions, we have spent 30-60 minutes together every morning, drinking coffee. I’m not much of a conversationalist in the morning, so I typically don’t contribute a lot. But Jamie is, so this time has turned in to a touch point for us. It is during coffee, day-after-day over the years, that our understanding of one another and relationship has really developed.

Jamie and I are very different. Beyond the gender difference, we are total opposites. We have no common interests. Our personalities are complete contrasts. Don’t read into this, but if we were not married, we would have no reason to be friends. But, somehow we are deeply in love and wholly compatible.

I go back to our daily caffeine ritual. I realize what has been happening is I have developed a relationship with an “other”. Jamie is a woman; I am a man. Jamie is a talker; I am a contemplative. Jamie is an extrovert; I am an introvert. Jamie has no interest in movies, TV, or novels; I love them all. However, even with our seeming incompatibility, there is no one I admire more or want to be with, than this “other”.

Isn’t this what God has done with us? Could there be someone more “other” to us than God? He is infinite; we are finite. He is all-knowing; our knowledge is limited. He is omnipotent and omnipresent; we aren’t. Yet, he has revealed himself to us. And over time, across conversation and silence, we come to know one another.

Isn’t it mind-boggling how different people can be. The variety is truly amazing. I love the assessment tool Strengthsfinder by Gallup. It identifies 5 strength “themes” out of a possible 34. Your strengths are listed in order of intensity, making the combination of your talents even more distinctive. If you wanted to find someone with the same top five themes in the same order as you, the odds are one in 33.4 million! I guess being one-in-a-million isn’t that special after all.

An assessment tool like Strengthsfinder is just one way to highlight individual uniqueness. There are an infinite number of distinctions and combinations. There’s gender, age, experience, interests, occupations, ethnicities, cultures, etc. Each infinite combination reflects something of the image of God.

Community is hard. Christian community is arguably harder. If the kingdom of God is about anything, it is about relationships. Learning to value the uniqueness (that which is the difference between myself and “other”) in others, is one of God’s chief tools to shape us into his likeness.

God trains us to know him better by our relationships with one another. God pushes us in relationship with others, because it is training for how to come to and grow in relationship with him.

Title Signature Screenshot Cartoon 2015

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