Surprised by Unity

Thanksgiving is more than food to me: it’s a chance for my crazy, animated, and very vocal family to come together in all of their comic glory every year. It’s a reminder that no matter our differences, these are my people, and this is where my heart belongs. Family festivities are a pretty basic locale for building unity (whether it’s through Meme’s pecan pie or Uncle Blake sharing that embarrassing story yet again). There are just some places that foster a sense of oneness. On the flip side, there are other settings where unity jumps out at you completely unexpectedly in a striped hat and shouts, “SURPRISE!!!”

Have you ever observed two bikers (motorcyclists, not bicyclists) passing each other on the road going different directions? They will be minding their own biker business, driving along, but as they pass one another, they each raise a hand in a low wave. These rough and tumble guys don’t know each other, and will probably never meet again, but for that moment, they are acknowledging and saluting one another as brothers with a common bond. The connection shared by these people floored me when I first noticed it and asked my dad (a biker) about it. No matter where you are in the nation, if you ride a motorcycle and someone else rides a motorcycle, you will wave to one another when you pass. SURPRISE!

You go on a mission trip to a different country—the food is new, the language is new, the customs are new. Just as you begin feeling overwhelmed by the cultural barriers, someone does something funny, and you laugh along with everyone else. SURPRISE!

You strike up a conversation with the person next to you at the coffee shop and learn that they are going through the same thing you are: job issues, a death in the family, financial stress. Suddenly, you see a fellow traveler at the same spot in their journey as you. SURPRISE!

Tragedy strikes the community, and for the first time in your memory, everyone puts aside their agendas, their preconceptions, their walls, and rushes to meet real needs. Groups that harbored dislike for one another work side by side to mend the broken places, and they find themselves on the same team. SURPRISE!

A people once enemies of God, hating Him and all that He stands for, are brought near to Him by a bloody cross. They find new life and purpose in the very One whom they were previously united against. SURPRISE!

You can probably think of situations around you in which oneness seems so far out of reach, but keep your eyes open. Those are perfect opportunities for Jesus to breathe life into a group of dry bones. I don’t know if it’s your family, your job, someone you don’t like, someone who doesn’t like you, or someone else entirely. But be on the lookout for moments in your life for unity to sneak up behind you and shout, “SURPRISE!” The entire story of grace is unexpected, and God is not finished yet.

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