faith · pop culture

the problem with equality

I don’t want to be equal to anybody and I definitely hope no one else is equal to me. I don’t. I’ve thought it through a lot and have come to this conclusion. I am tired of trying to prove equality. I’m tired of living up to some set of something or others to make an equation that shows how we are the same.  And the sum of our parts takes many steps in evaluation and a kind of mathematics I just don’t want to do any more. I haven’t done any kind of real math since high school and one very badly decided semester in college which I promptly withdrew from. I decided I’m done with math. And I think you should be too. At least this kind.

We have played this equality game for a long time now. We keep having to balance the equation, like an endless algebraic mess. And the parts keep changing, let alone the sum as we understand more and more of humanity, behavior, child development, socio-economic factors, worldviews, … the list goes on. Just thinking of all the parts of the equation gives us a headache. Who can create this exhaustive list? Who can really be sure to factor in everything that gives us all an “equal” shot at being equal?

And let’s be honest, those who believe in equality don’t really believe in equality because they don’t believe they are equal to those who don’t believe in equality. It’s enough to make your head spin.

Maybe we’re doing it wrong. It occurs to me that there’s something to the lowest common denominator thing. There’s something to be said that when you strip away everything, everything, everything… it’s all the same. Maybe we’ve been spending so much time building UP that we forgot what’s at the bottom, the baseline. Is that where we are all the same? What if we stop adding up everything we claim to be and start dividing down? What if we take away all the layers and found that 1 does equal 1 after all?

What if we are the same? Do you understand what that means? I said I hoped no one is equal to me. why? Because I know me. I know who I’ve been and what I’ve done. It’s painful. Sure there are good things about me and sure I’ve had an occasion here and there to rise to and, grammar aside, I did ok. But I don’t think you want to be me. Trust me.

So what if we’re looking at it the wrong way? What if equality is not something to be grasped? What if equality means we all ultimately really suck? We’ve been trying so hard to prove we are equal and thinking that makes us all great. Maybe equality is not about who we are, but what we have received. We have the same need. We have the same deficit. We need the same amounts, not just to get us back to zero sums, but to make any difference at all.

Maybe what we have received, each of us, in equal measures is a matchless grace, an eternal love that can never die or diminish. Maybe what we all get is a promise that we’ll have all the strength we need and all our cares met. Maybe the point is that we get so distracted by all these equations to balance the entirety of the human race, but we miss one really important part of the math. We miss that one surprise figure, that one we weren’t looking for, but He came looking for us. Even from a long way off.

My kids are all about equality. They are 3 1/2 and almost 2 years old. I’ve learned to give them their juice at the same time. Their cereal. Their snacks. Their dinner. Their sticker books. Their toys. They get the same thing at the same time. They are overjoyed and don’t grumble. They grumble when one gets something and the other doesn’t. They whine when one has a toy the other wants. And so on.

One of the best mama moments I’ve had so far was when I put Naomi’s juice on the table and she said, “Where’s Miriam’s?” It pleased my heart. She was looking out for her sister. She knew her sister needed something that I could give her. She wanted to make sure her sister got her equal share. And when I handed Miri her juice, all were satisfied. Oh, for the heart of a child.

We all want to receive the same things. Maybe the things we’re looking for are the wrong things. Maybe it’s what we have already received. Maybe what we really need is to act like it’s enough for everyone, like it’s satisfying, like it’s sufficient to cover us all. Because it is.

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