What would it mean for you to live a "life of addition"? Kirsten Holmberg shows us.
A Life of Addition
By Kirsten Holmberg
I wasn't sure what her perspective was. Should I emphasize we were required to wear masks? Would that make her feel safe? Or was it more likely to cause her to decline the invitation if she didn't agree? It was the first time we'd tried to spend time together in person since March when COVID sent us home.
I guessed incorrectly, tried to "sell" our gathering with the wrong assumption. The tension between our vantage points pulled heavily on my heart; the excitement at being together for a fun outing suddenly blunted by the realization that we held different opinions.
I've spent my adult life in two ideologically different locations, causing my social backdrop to be one of contrasts. My social media feed is a strange meal, served up by both "carnivores" and "vegans" - each presenting me a platter of their position.
I've grown accustomed to the contrasting dichotomy and I know the beauty and benefit of being surrounded by those with perspectives different than my own. I've learned how to avoid conversational topics that produce unnecessary relational stress, especially where history has taught me the conversation will drive us apart instead of adding breadth and depth to our mutual understanding.
Sometimes we don't know where our differences lie with another person until we stumble upon them, falling flat into relational discord. COVID has plastered a potential "difference" on our faces - literally, in the form of a mask or the absence of one. Those differences aren't just a topic to handle carefully at a gathering; they determine whether (and how) we gather at all.
This reality has caused me to think more than ever about how to share life with those different than me. Loneliness was an epidemic before the pandemic; I feel the urgency to find ways to be "near" the other - for my sake and theirs. To live a life of addition instead of division.
It's become a social equation, a mathematical dance. Perhaps we did, indeed, learn all we need to know in kindergarten ... or third grade? Perhaps the answer to the problem of factions lies in understanding fractions.
Fractions, like people, can't be added to one another until a common denominator - common ground - is established. I search for points of agreement and mutual understanding within our political viewpoints, COVID practices, doctrinal positions, and beyond. More often than not, I find the multiplier lies in what we care about; our division lies predominantly in our differing paths to get there. Realizing that core truth has helped me brave the distance between my heart and that of another because we've discovered that which unites us: our shared values.
Even when we struggle to unearth that common ground, we can always fall back on the bedrock of a mutual desire to be in and stay in relationship. There we find "terra firma" to stand upon, the equivalent of multiplying each denominator by the other to arrive at a common figure for addition.
As a wordsmith, this mathematical analogy has stretched me, caused me to think differently. It has also prompted an important recollection from God's Word: that I am part of a whole, a member of Christ's Body. Americans are especially prone to live lives of so-called rugged individualism, emphasizing the numerator, if you will. But in him we form one Body - we belong to one another, need each other (Romans 12:5). He means for us to be interdependent, where differences add not detract, giving full expression - wholeness - to his design.
Instead of letting our differences push us apart, let's be people of addition, finding the common denominator and pulling our friends and neighbors close. We'll be better for it.
And he'll be glorified through it.
Kirsten Holmberg is a Boise-based writer, speaker, and recovering multi-tasker. She's the author of several Bible studies and writes regularly for the international devotional Our Daily Bread. When she's not immersed in God's Word, or crafting a message of her own, Kirsten enjoys helping others communicate their ideas and conquer America's #1 fear as a public speaking coach and trainer. Connect with her at kirstenholmberg.com
, or @kirholmberg on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.