Unique in All the World
I never thought that I would enjoy being an oddity, but for the two years that I lived and worked in France, I genuinely did. I lived just a few kilometers outside the large northeastern city of Nancy, but in my tiny town of Saint-Max, I was the only American. It took me months to begin losing my accent, so when I first arrived, every time I opened my mouth I gave myself away as a foreigner. The first assumption the French often made was that I was English. “Non, je suis américaine,” I would correct them.
The children I assisted in an after-school tutoring program all wanted to know if my father was a cowboy, if I knew any movie stars, and whether I lived in New York or Hollywood – the only two cities they knew of in America. In the neighborhood video store one day, I overheard a conversation between the owner and another customer. My French language skills were finally getting to the point that I could understand the entire exchange. “Have you met our American yet?” the shopkeeper asked. “She's back there. She comes in my store often.” He sounded proud, and I had to smile at being labeled “our American.”
Deep down, I think all of us want to feel special, to have the sense that we are one of a kind, unique. Often, life robs us of that feeling, as we get the impression that we are just another patient, just another employee, just another citizen, just another number. We blend into the crowd and it seems as if no one sees us for who we really are. It can sometimes feel as if even God loses track of our individuality. After all, God loves everybody in the whole world, right? We are all just part of the mass of humanity, nothing special.
Yes, God loves the whole world, but I don’t believe God loves us all the same. Each of us is a unique individual, and God crafted that uniqueness in us. No one is as intimately familiar with all our differences as God. So it makes sense that God would relate to each of us differently, that no two of us would have exactly the same relationship with God. Without a doubt, God loves you and God loves me, but we are not interchangeable. You are irreplaceable in God’s affections. You are special, and proudly claimed as God’s own.
God, thank you for making us who we are. You love us just like we are, not like anyone else in the world. Help us to value and celebrate that uniqueness in ourselves and others. Amen.
-- Chaplain Stacy N. Sergent