My elementary school divided all the students into two teams. It was part of being enrolled in the school. Based on the luck of the draw, kids were either chosen to be an Oak or they were chosen to be an Acorn--a label that followed each of us from kindergarten through sixth grade. Oaks and Acorns competed during the year in various sports and fund-raising activities. The kids reveled in the competition, which often caused hurt feelings and less-than-kind behavior. My sister was an Acorn. I was an Oak. Not good for sibling harmony, since we already did not get along at home, regardless of our Oak or Acorn status. I didn't like the division the school created. Acorns always boasted that they were smarter and stronger. And Oaks gave it right back to them, saying they were the smarter and stronger team. The school even had T-shirts made: Acorns wore brown shirts with an acorn on it, and Oaks wore a green shirt with an oak leaf on it. Supposedly the Oaks were superior (after all, the shirts were green, which was our school color). This led to many overindulgent parents calling the school, demanding their child to be selected as an Oak. Oh Please!
I know the school did not mean to create such unrest. After all, kids who play sports are competing against teams. That's the point of soccer, football, basketball, softball, etc. Competition can be good. But there was something disconcerting about the school having two teams . . . until I gave it a little more thought. You see, the school was really on to something when it created the Oaks and Acorns, it's just that the kids and families didn't live out the bigger picture because their competitive natures got in the way of the lesson: Unity.
I was in high school when I realized that an oak tree produces acorns. (How embarrassing, I know.) I credit my ignorance to my elementary school years and how divided our teams were. In those days it never occurred to me that acorns and oak leaves were part of the same tree. Where unity existed I saw division. I saw competition. I saw walls go up. But Jesus' message of unity opened my eyes and heart. I now understand that we are all part of one unified body--God's complete and whole creation. We all operate as different parts of the whole. I like to think of it this way:
We are all one.
We are all different.
No one is special.
This seems like a harsh statement, but read it again and think . . . We are all of equal importance in God's kingdom. It cannot be another way in His eyes. No one is more valuable than another. No one is "special" because that would mean another is not. We are unique, yes. But better or more special than another? No. Remembering my connection with others keeps me mindful of being compassionate. It keeps me mindful of my competitive nature and how futile it is. It keeps me mindful of showing patience toward others who are struggling. But most important, it reminds me of how my actions can affect so many others, so many parts of the One.
"The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit." 1 Corinthians 12:12-13 (NLT)
"For you are all one in Christ Jesus." Galations 3:28 (NKJV)
And so it is.