Just as God Intended
By Deb Crowley of Urbandale, IA, USA
Hear, O my people of the church, I am Jesus Christ of whom you have sung and testified and in whose name you pray. I am the spirit of love and peace which is in the world and yet not known by the world. —Doctrine and Covenants 157:11
The worship experiences at the 2013 USA National Conference focused on the unique growth patterns of aspen trees. While it appears the trees stand alone, in reality they are connected by an intertwining root system. New trees grow up from the roots. As old trees die off, it appears that there are separate groves.
Their connection is necessary for their survival. This God-created growth pattern has assured their existence for thousands of years. Likewise, rooted together by a unique heritage and calling, it is in community the church thrives and survives turbulent times.
Considering this analogy, I thought of the black walnut trees in my yard. Tall, strong, and sturdy, they provide shade, produce edible nuts, and offer shelter for flying creatures. The trouble is, they do not “play well” with other plants. The juglone in their roots poisons other plants. Only a few plants can thrive within fifty yards of their roots. Many azaleas, lilacs, and petunias have met their dismal fate near our walnut tree.
Aspens, black walnuts, and flowering plants all depend on the same elements to survive—sun, soil, water, and a healthy environment. In ideal conditions and a distance away from each other’s growth patterns, they all thrive and fulfill their earthly purpose—just as God intended.
I struggle with how followers of Jesus Christ can have such diverse understandings and why division occurs when we worship and love the same God. The plants teach us a lesson.
God calls us to live in community. Some people are like the aspens, tightly woven together by a heritage that binds and continues growth in the groves. Others are like the black walnuts; they prefer standing alone surrounded only by those with similar beliefs. Some are like the flowers growing where welcomed and nourished. But under God’s care, and with respect for one another’s unique needs, we can all grow where we are planted. And the diversity of the whole is a beautiful sight!
Prayer for Peace
Creator God, thank you for the various habitats that nurture each one in the way needed. Thank you for the ability to live side by side, even though our needs are different. Thank you for the peace of Christ which brings diverse communities together.
Spiritual Practice: Welcoming Unity in Diversity
Meditate on Unity in Diversity. Create a large circle with your arms. See and feel the diverse people God invites inside the sanctuary of Christ’s peace represented by this circle.
Who is easiest to welcome? Whom do you struggle to include? Confess the dividing walls between you and people too different or “challenging” to invite into your spiritual home. Ask God to forgive and heal barriers that keep us from loving one another.
Today, God, I will get to know a stranger who may become a friend.