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“We are the same person,” is the thing I find myself saying when I feel a particular affinity to someone.

The other day my friend confessed that when she got really overwhelmed at work, she would start researching #vanlife and how to retrofit a Sprinter van for everything you need on the road. I felt like she had been peeking into my internet search history. “We are the same person,” I said.

My other friend hates it when I comment on her hair or clothes. Her goal in the morning is to look in the mirror see something put together enough, and unremarkable enough, to attract no one’s attention. I told her I liked her blazer last week and she said, “I knew I shouldn’t have worn this. I thought, ‘It’s just going to be a conversation all day,’ and it was.” I have three blazers in my closet, two of which I have never worn, and I didn’t know why until this conversation. “We are the same person,” I said.

I had a friend who laughed through tears because she was late to help at our kids’ school function. After her cousin’s funeral, she got on the highway to come home and found herself an hour in the opposite direction before she even noticed. “We are the same person,” I said.

I remember all these moments because of how they made me feel: less alone. I loved my friends more when I knew these things about them. And, I guess, I loved myself a little more, too.

I’m confused about Pentecost. Because on the one hand it is a day that celebrates the holiness of difference. In the midst of a Roman Empire that insisted on uniformity and homogeneity (most powerfully imposed through the insistence on one language), we see a very non-Empire, non-Roman, non-uniform phenomenon launch the church.

The gathered Jews, all from different cultures and languages and peoples, begin to hear the disciples speak in a bunch of languages. Their languages. I imagine this was weird, because I imagine that they all had some fluency in Hebrew so they could worship together. I imagine that they had a common language they could use, and I imagine they were all fine with using it, maybe even looking forward to it. But the Spirit had something else in mind — the beautiful confusion, the holy chaos, the sanctifying power of difference.

This was not the Roman Empire and the power of One. This was something really different.

But on the other hand, Pentecost seems like it’s also about sameness. They were all amazed. They were all perplexed. They all had the same question: “What does this mean?” None of them were in control, but they could look around and see themselves on the faces of the beautiful other. They were not alone.

I think we all long for sameness. We think we can buy it. We try to enforce it. But at the end of the day, I think this kind of sameness never satisfies. This kind of sameness doesn’t belong in the Kingdom of God, with its beautiful, frightening, power-sharing diversity. What I think we long for is a different sameness — the one that calls out in the midst of the “What does it mean?” chaos: You are here. You are seen. Your life matters. You are loved.

Photo by Felipe Bustillo on Unsplash

Kate Kooyman

Kate is a minister of the Reformed Church in America who serves in the Christian Reformed Church Office of Social Justice in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

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