Several years ago, we adopted a gorgeous Shetland Sheepdog from a breeder and trainer. Misty, as we renamed her, had been raised in a very different and somewhat limited environment. She was used to certain foods and routines, and she was more used to being confined long hours in a crate than to having the run of the house. Now that Misty was living with us, she needed to adjust to new things and new ways and, mainly, having more freedom. Misty needed to get used to everything being different. But her period of adjustment took over a year; for months, each new room she encountered in our home seemed to unnerve her. She tended to hang out in only one room, and typically a certain corner of that room. When we’d walk into a different room, Misty acted like she wanted to follow us, but she would refuse to enter new territory.
“Want to sit on the sofa with us, Misty? Just long enough to get a family photo?” Not really. “Want to go for a walk in the woods, Misty?” Um, lemme think about it — I’ve never gone down this particular trail, and it’s … well, it’s different!
Eventually, using lots of love and patience, we coaxed Misty out of her shell, and got her used to embracing new experiences. But until then, whenever Misty encountered something she wasn’t familiar with, we’d chuckle and say in unison — in a cute, playful tone, as though Misty herself were saying the words — “It’s different!”
We’ve met people who have the same outlook on life as our pooch. We know someone who loves Tex-Mex cuisine, and has dined at some pretty authentic Mexican restaurants. This person KNOWS what a good chile relleno tastes like … with refried beans and fresh guacamole. And so do we. We frequent this little cafe where the whole staff speaks Spanish and the food is as authentic as it gets. However, there are also times we’ve been in a hurry and stopped at Taco Bell. The food is far from authentic; it’s handed to us through a window, usually by a young gringo working his way through college; and it’s served in paper wrappers or Styrofoam containers. IT. IS. NOT. AUTHENTIC! But know what? It’s tasty! Really tasty! It doesn’t taste like what we’re used to getting at that little Mexican cafe, but does it need to? It’s good, all the same. It’s just different. Alas, that “someone” we mentioned — who KNOWS good Tex-Mex — would rather do without than eat at Taco Bell.
Pizza is another food that suffers from the “It’s different!” mentality. We love authentic New York style pizza, and especially from this wonderful Italian restaurant where all the waiters speak broken English to us and Italian to each other. Hey, when in Rome…. But we are not pizza snobs! We’ll also eat and enjoy Chicago style pizza, Dominos takeout, “thin and crispy” ones from Pizza Hut, and even frozen “pizza” from the grocery store. Of course, each of these pizza experiences is different, and if we insist on comparing one to another, some of these pizzas are going to come up short. Personally, we don’t think a cheap microwave pizza tastes anything like the one we get from our favorite Italian place. But does it need to? As a TV snack, it’s not bad at all. It’s just different.
Different shouldn’t automatically translate as “not as good as” or “bad”! Different is … just different. But we live in a world where people are constantly comparing — everything! We compare (and rate) foods, movies, books, ministries, churches and people, to list only a few. And like our maladjusted pooch Misty, when we encounter something that’s new or different, something we’re not used to, something not like what we were expecting, many of us give it a low score, often needlessly. We compare it to what we know, like, want, and expect; and when we realize “it’s different!” we devalue it and may want nothing more to do with it.
We’ve listened to ministers who pace the floor and shout, wave their hands and work up a sweat while preaching the Word of God. We’ve also listened to ministers who stand behind a podium, calmly and softly teaching from the Bible. And we’ve heard everything in between. These ministers are different. Do we need to compare them as though they were frozen pizzas? Despite being different, each has something to bring to the table; each presents the Word of God with a unique flavor.
Let’s be bold — and fair! Let’s approach the different and the unfamiliar with a spirit of adventure — and evaluate every experience based upon its own merits, not on the merits of something or someone else. Don’t assume that because “it’s different” that it’s not as good, especially when dealing with people. Different cultures, different denominations, different ethnicities, different styles, different likes and dislikes. It’s all good, even if “it’s different!” Remember, Jesus said, “Look beneath the surface so you can judge correctly.” (John 7:24 NLT)