The kind of Math I like…

My mother-in-law and I were recently bemoaning the fact that we both really disliked Math. It began when she was cutting an unusually shaped matting for a frame. My father-in-law and Scott were both out-of-town when she called to me in the other room, “Hey Greta…are you a Math wiz?”

After laughing extensively I simply answered, “Well, I’m smart enough to have married a Math wiz.”

When we were relaying that conversation later to Scott…how we were trying to add and subtract fractions…he jokingly threw his arms up in the arm and quipped, “It’s all about the common denominator, people. ALL ABOUT THE COMMON DENOMINATOR!!”

I will still just stop and ask him when I have a mathematical question. My strengths lie more in the area of being able to correctly spell ‘mathematics’ than do mathematics.

I did grasp, however, how unintentionally profound his comment truly was.

Each week we receive an email from our church, highlighting the various things going on and what service projects are available. This week the email started with the following paragraph:

We are one. This has been our unofficial mantra throughout our community’s short life. Those three words sum up our approach to God, life, and ministry. We may be different. We may come from different places and have different beliefs. We may live in a world that highlights those differences to create division and fear and boost TV news ratings. But we refuse to accept that our differences define us. We insist that we can live and love in the tension of diversity.

We are one.

We are young. We are old. We are one. We are poor. We are rich. We are one. We are straight. We are gay. We are one. We are Democrats. We are Republicans. We are one.

The common denominator that makes us one?
God was the creative genius behind each one of us.
God wants each one of us to know and experience his love and grace.

I was born in 1965.
Unfortunately, I am too young and don’t get to be a cool ex-hippie who participated in sit-ins and civil rights movements that would eventually alter the perceptions of Americans.
I also don’t get to be of the Birkenstocks generation that is currently redeveloping many of the things that the civil rights era didn’t finish up.

I’m stuck somewhere in between.

I have been reading, The Help, by Kathryn Stockett. While every brown-eyed black person in America would roll their eyes at this statement, I really am amazed at the blatant discrimination going on in the South during my formative years. Reading this book, which took place in the early 60’s, it is as if I am reading stories that are of the pre-Civil War mentality.

I missed the years of (official) segregation enough to be semi-shocked that there ever existed the mindset that Blacks and Whites are two different creatures. It still continues to amaze me.

As our church’s email pointed out, our external differences are a favorite target for the media and politics to use as a place for division and fear.

But we can choose to not be divided.
We can choose to be One.

I would like to envision myself as a peace-loving, civil rights advocate in the 60’s. But in all honesty, I don’t know how much of an outspoken advocate I would be. Would I be swayed by popular opinion? Even just a little?

Am I today?

Segregation, especially socio-economic segregation (which in turn happens to include racial segregation, more times than not) is still a relevant division in our American society today. I have really had to step back and take a look at how I may possibly treat other people as ‘different’ or ‘less than’. God, I hope that I do not. I hope there is not a dark spot in my brain that says, “Yeah, but…”

But something tells me that unless we have periodically checked our hearts and thoughts for such lurking divisions, than we probably are propelling those divisions forward.

We all have a common denominator.
Recognition and submission to that denominator can make our “mental math” easy or complicated – depending on whether or not we accept the truth of human commonality.

I have been double-checking that internal process lately.


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