Look around you. No… look closely. What do you see? If there is one word that describes our world more accurately than any other it’s diversity.
One lingering legend from my childhood in frigid southeastern Nebraska is that no two snowflakes are exactly alike. According to Physicist Kenneth G. Libbrecht, that’s no legend — it’s true. Libbrecht wrote, “the probability that two snow crystals would have exactly the same layout of … molecules is very, very, very small … the odds of it happening within the lifetime of the Universe is indistinguishable from zero”. The frozen domain of snowflakes represents but one stunning example of unique and grand design.
Consider life on our planet at large. Educated estimates claim there are between 13 and 14 million living species worldwide. Of these various species, we share the planet with nearly one million different varieties of insects — some friendlier than others. Bees, for example, hail from nine different families and 20,000 different species. Yikes! Run fast, and don’t look back!
Are you a gardener? If so, you have 400,000 choices with which to beautify your property — a quarter million of which will thrill you or a significant other with bountiful and beautiful (often fragrant) blooms.
How about adding some healthy variety to tomorrow’s breakfast? Fruitpedia.com suggests including a serving of one of 375 edible varieties of fruit with your meal. That’s a different sweet treat for every day of the year — and then some!
Do you like to experience different cultures? There are roughly 193 countries you could visit and most are home to scores of dissimilar ethnic groupings. Population experts suggest that between 150 and 175 different ethnicities call America ‘home’. Though all groups share the same race classification (we’re all human), other distinctions between the groups abound such as language; dialect; skin color; body size/shape; facial structure; even hair coloration and texture. In other words, the human race itself represents a virtual melting pot of diversity.
Speaking of humanity, I’m a people watcher by nature and a people ‘server’ by profession; and if there is one thing I’ve learned in 20 years of ministry, it’s that everyone is different. Some wear their distinctiveness like a badge of honor, while many others don’t exactly revel in their uniqueness. In fact, far too many appear endlessly entangled in an ardent struggle to fit one particular mold: look the same; act the same; dress the same … be the same. In a universe absolutely awash with diversity, many settle for ‘sameness’. Why?
For illustration purposes, consider with me the wild world of cosmetic surgery. In 1997, $13 billion was spent on surgical and non-surgical cosmetic procedures. Since 1997, however, there has been a 447 percent increase in the total number of cosmetic procedures in general! A recent issue of Time magazine reported Asia chronicled the nearly incalculable spread of cosmetic surgery across the Asian continent in the last decade.
In one particular article entitled Changing Faces, the author wrote: “Around Asia, women —and increasingly, men — are nipping and tucking, sucking and suturing, injecting and implanting, all in the quest for better looks … In Korea, surgeons estimate that at least one in 10 adults has received some form of surgical upgrade and even tots have their eyelids done (to enlarge the appearance of their eyes)”.
A related article entitled Peer Pressure Plastics chronicled the near epidemic proportions of cosmetic surgery throughout the teenage population of Korea: “Teenagers as young as 14 are doing it, and eye jobs have become a favorite high school graduation gift from proud parents”.
Let me hasten to admit that cosmetic surgery serves many valid and helpful purposes, but it’s otherwise incongruous and meteoric rise begs an important question: What truly makes people special; worthwhile; desirable? Does it require replicating someone else’s eyes, nose, lips, chin or ears? Will fighting to look 45 when I’m 65 truly, in the end, add lasting value to my personhood?
The first section of Genesis in the Bible credits God with overseeing the overall creation process. It states that He personally designed everything that we presently encounter on our planet and after His expansive and diverse efforts breathed a sigh of proud accomplishment: “It is good.” I should note that humans, you and I, are the crown jewel of God’s creation. Consider what the Psalmist David had to say about our conception process:
13 You (GOD) made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
15 You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. Psalm 139:13-15 (NLT)
Maybe your Latin genes have graced you with a distinct Roman snout. Did you know that God saw to it that nobody else in the world has YOUR nose? The Psalmist tells us that He took special care sculpting your chin just as it is. Don’t dispose of His gift carelessly. It makes you … you! Maybe your face is graced with a healthy smattering of russet colored freckles. If so, you’re a member of a relatively exclusive club. Think about it. Who decides what is beautiful and what isn’t? Vogue? Cosmopolitan? Hollywood?
God looks at your pre-determined uniqueness and says: “That’s marvelous! I did especially well on Shelley… Sam … Steve!” Maybe you’re taller or shorter, bigger or smaller in places than you wish you were. If your reflection repulses you, try asking yourself: “Who am I allowing to define beautiful, special … valuable?” Your conclusions just might surprise you. If God purposed to make you just the way you are, how much more special and unique could you possibly be?
Maybe deep inside you are asking: “Can’t I just be me?”
Yes, you can! Personal satisfaction and creaturely contentment comes through accepting and embracing just who God designed you to be — and nothing more.
About the author
Jim Harper is the pastor of Mountain Bible Church, 302 E. Rancho Road, Payson. Services are at 8:45 a.m. and 10:30 a.m., Sunday.
To learn more about the church and its programs, call (928) 472-7800.