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Celebrate Our Differences by Eric Zahnd

I guess he would be surprised.

Twenty-five years and two teenagers later, my wife Tracy and I remain happily married.

That’s not what he predicted. He said we would never make it, and we should just hang it up.

He was wrong.

He was a couples counselor at Glorieta Baptist Conference Center in New Mexico. Tracy and I had gone there on a college retreat in 1989.

We were dating at the time, and one of the workshops was geared toward couples. The counselor administered a personality test to the group and then held brief individual counseling sessions with each couple.

Tracy and I scored as polar opposites on every axis of the inventory. She is an extrovert; I am an introvert. She likes to sense things; I am more intuitive. She feels; I think. She perceives; I judge.

When he met with us, he told us in no uncertain terms that our relationship was doomed.

“Someday,” he said to Tracy, “you’re going to need Eric, and he won’t be there for you. You would be better off accepting that now and moving on.”

He was a fool.

I’ve never seen the movie, and I’m given to mocking its famous line, but Jerry Maguire offers more soundly Christian advice than the supposed expert at Glorieta.

“You complete me,” Jerry utters to his true love in the film.

That’s true of Tracy and me. Her strengths compensate for my many weaknesses, and vice-versa. Although we sometimes have to work hard to reconcile our different ways of approaching the world, we ultimately make a great couple—with a healthy and lasting marriage to prove it—largely because of our differences.

This is also true of a healthy church and a healthy Christian. One of the things that continue to draw me to Second Baptist Church is that we embrace diversity, particularly diversity of thought.

Unlike many churches—on both the political and theological left as well as right—Second Baptist Church has decided to embrace diversity of thought. Too many of our Christian brothers and sisters—again on the left just as often as the right—have instead adopted a theology of exclusion borne of a dangerous arrogance that they have God figured out.

Too many churches and Christian leaders today neglect the Christian virtue of accepting the ambiguity that comes with humbly acknowledging that God is infinitely bigger than any of us can imagine. Too many Christians today want to believe that they somehow have captured what God would have us to believe and how God would have us to act in very complex circumstances. They disregard the doxology from Romans 11:33-36:

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!

    How unsearchable his judgments,

    and his paths beyond tracing out!

“Who has known the mind of the Lord?

    Or who has been his counselor?”

“Who has ever given to God,

    that God should repay them?”

For from him and through him and for him are all things.

    To him be the glory forever! Amen.

In my marriage as well as my church, I know no one will try to force me to approach a personal, political, theological, or moral issue from a certain vantage point. Instead, I humbly accept with those closest to me the reality that we see only “through a glass, darkly.” I Corinthians 13:12.

The humility required to celebrate differences has sustained Tracy and me through more than two decades of marriage. That same sort of humility has enlivened Second Baptist Church for nearly 175 years.

So the next time a supposed Christian couples expert or a strident voice from either Christian extreme insists to you that you have it all wrong and divergence invites defeat, I suggest you do what my wife and I and the people of Second Baptist have done:  stick with one another and rejoice in the strength that comes from our differences.

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