Sister Joan Chittier on Differences

“Of two possibilities,” my mother loved to tell me, “choose always the third.”  She is a Benedictine nun.  I found the words of Sister Joan Chittier in a collection of writings on community titled Called to Community: The Life Jesus Wants for His People.  I have been carrying it around for a couple of months now.  I suppose it will be with me for the rest of my life.  It is that kind of book.  Not merely read, checked off a summer reading list and placed on the shelf, I have turned to this book again and again.  In search of the right word and a reminder of where I am going, I turned to this page or another, found my voice and my place.  Thanks be to God.

Sister Chittier’s words seem familiar though we have never met.  She is talking about a people and the God of community that I am desperately in search of in sacred spaces.  Her words act as a kind of signpost.  I am on the right track and she is not merely on to something but on the trail of Someone.

Here are a few of words; I pray that you step on Jesus’ heels as you read them.  Sister Chittier says this about differences:

1.  “Of all things unacceptable to the human psyche, the notion of difference may well be among the most threatening. ”

2.  “Sameness becomes a kind of security blanket that wraps us up in the warm feeling of being acceptable to the groups with which we identify and whose approval we seek.  If we don’t stand out, we can’t be criticized. We are safe because we are just like everybody else.  To be socially acceptable, we have allowed ourselves to be socially invisible.”

3.  “Somewhere along the line, we must become who we were meant to be as individuals.”

4.  “Differences not only teach us new ways of doing things; they also make us ask new questions of ourselves about what is really important in life, what really must have priority, and what is true happiness, success, and unity.”

5.  “Differences are a challenge to our small assumptions about the way the world really goes together.  An American world, a white world, a male world, a Western world are all simply small slices of reality attempting to be the whole.”

6. “Creativity, it is too often forgotten, comes out of differences.   It is the ability to function outside the lines, beyond the dots, despite the boxes and the mental chains by which we have forever been constrained, that fits us to be the architects of the future.”

7.  “…(T)hat is the glorious burden of Christianity: to follow the one who talked to Samaritan women and Roman soldiers, all the time allowing them to be who they were.  Clearly, differences were not made to be homogenized; differences were made to be respected, to be honored, to be cherished. …”

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