Vanilla Ice Cream

Vanilla is my favorite ice cream flavor. 

I rarely get anything else, and on the occasions when do, the flavor I choose generally has a vanilla base.

My wife thinks I’m missing out on a rainbow of amazing flavors, and she’s right. 

But I know what I like and I like what I know.  And I respect others with different likes and dislikes.

For me, there is something special about the flavor of that little vanilla bean mixed in with frozen cream and sugar and it’s especially good when the ice cream is homemade.  Just make sure that you use real vanilla flavoring, not artificial.  I can tell the difference.

God’s creation is not plain vanilla.

God’s creation is not plain anything.

God’s creation isn’t even limited to thirty-three flavors.

As humans, we use labels to identify ourselves and to identify others.  We do this without even thinking about it.

We sort ourselves into categories and divide ourselves into groups and define for ourselves what is normal, often without consideration for others who see the world through different eyes.  We create a human standard, a default that everyone is expected to emulate, without considering all the perspectives and personalities and experiences and traditions in the color palette God uses to create the world in all its diversity.

I recently sat down and made a list of all the human-made categories and labels that I could call to mind.  Skin color.  Continent of origin.  Ethnic heritage.  Political stance.  Theological stance.  Gender identification.  Orientation identification.  Regional identification.  Employment status.  High School and/or college identification.  Marital status.  Family status.  Educational level.  Economic status.  Professional status.  I’m sure I left out a number of categories.

In the 1980’s Broadway musical “Big River”, an adaptation of Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, the songwriter Roger Miller has Jim, a runaway slave, and Huckleberry Finn, an orphaned white boy, sing a duet called “Worlds Apart” as they begin their river journey to get Jim to freedom.  Here are some of the words they sing as they get to know one another:

I see the same starts through my window that you see through yours
But we’re worlds apart, worlds apart.
And I see the same skies through brown eyes that you see through blue
but we’re worlds apart, worlds apart.
Just like the earth, just like the sun, two worlds together are better than one.                     
(“Worlds Apart; 1985 Original Broadway Cast; lyrics ©Sony/atv Tree Publishing Obo Roger Miller Music)

Jim and Huck then switch roles, singing first about what the other man sees and then about what he sees, before the song ends with this:

I see the friendship in your eyes that you see in mine,
but we’re worlds apart, worlds apart.

I am a white, straight, married Southern male.  My most prominent categories are the default standard categories for humanity in ten southeastern states in the United States.  As a straight white married male, I haven’t experienced sexism, homophobia, or racism.   I never get the awkward questions from church members and family members: “Are you ever going to get married?”  Clerks don’t follow me around in department stores until they think I’m ready to buy something.  I’ve never been rejected for a job interview because my name is hard to pronounce.  I’ve never felt threatened walking down any city street in any place I’ve ever lived.

I am the center of my own world.  And subconsciously, I expect everyone else to be a part of my world without ever considering how much richer my life experience would be if I experienced the world that others live in.  That is the experience of being a white male.

I’ll never be able to be who I’m not.  And there’s not a problem with that.  The problem begins when I, and others like me, expect others not like me to do their best to be just like me.  That was long and complicated, so let me try again.

We all need each other.  We all need to appreciate each other’s uniqueness.  We all need to be a part of one another’s world.  To exclude any one category, any one person is to exclude a part of God’s creation, to exclude a part of God.

While I love vanilla ice cream, a vanilla church isn’t the Body of Christ.  And a vanilla Christianity isn’t the totality of God’s creation.

The problem begins when I, and others like me, expect everyone in the world to make vanilla their favorite flavor of ice cream simply because it is my favorite flavor.

Vanilla is my favorite flavor.  Tell me about yours. 

-Kirk Tutterow