If you ask any of my close friends to describe me in a few sentences, I can guarantee one of the first things they would say is “She asks a lot of questions.”
I love asking questions. And not just the generic questions like, “What’s your favorite drink at Starbucks?” (it’s an iced almond milk chai latte). I’m talking about those questions that make you dig deep to respond. Questions that make you stop and think for a minute before you answer. And not only do I love asking questions, but I also love being asked a really good question.
A few weeks ago, my roommate, Kirsten, asked me a question that has really stuck with me. She asked, “What character attributes do you most value and appreciate in people?”
And, because I’m a verbal processor (I’M SORRY @everyone), it took me awhile to articulate my answer. But as I’ve had some time to gather my thoughts, I’m going to try to more succinctly (you’re welcome) put my response into writing.
My favorite kind of people are the ones who have learned the balance of being completely genuine in their relationships and consistent in their character as well as being open-minded in their interactions and adaptable in their environments. The ones who have mastered the dance of consistency and adaptability.
And though these characteristics might seem mutually exclusive, I have discovered that, rather than contradicting each other, they are actually dependent on each other.
As I processed through the reasons why I am so attracted to the pairing of these two attributes, I realized that not only is the theme of consistency and adaptability woven throughout scripture, but it is actually woven into the person of Christ. God is both multifaceted in His nature and consistent in His character. And that truth is the greatest source of beauty and comfort. He is multifaceted because He is the Lion of Judah, roaring in power and fighting our battles. And He is also the Lamb that was slain, laying down His will and sacrificing His life for the sins of the world. He is a Righteous Judge. And He is also a Gracious Father. He is consistent because His standard of truth is unchanging, His grace is always sufficient, and His faithfulness is never-failing. In His constancy He gives His love unconditionally and equally to all, but in His multifaceted nature He gives His love uniquely by specifically catering to the needs of the individual.
Another person who beautifully exemplifies the marriage of these qualities is the apostle Paul, a.k.a my favorite biblical/historical figure hands down. I mean, the guy just gets it. He values spiritual knowledge and embodies practical application like none other—and his orientation around the concept of consistency plus adaptability is no exception. In 1 Corinthians 9:22, Paul writes, “I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might win some.”
How can Paul make such a bold statement? That he has become “all things to all people?”
G.K. Chesterton says in his book Orthodoxy, “the heart must be fixed on the right thing: the moment we have a fixed heart we have a free hand.” Paul is able to be adaptable and “become all things” because he is uncompromisingly devoted to one thing—the love of God. His fixed heart gives him a free hand.
Fixing his heart exclusively enabled him to love inclusively.
“All” is a strikingly inclusive term. And that inclusive term flatly contradicts some of the excuses I use to justify not engaging different personality types, socio-economic statuses, races, or creeds. Ultimately, the gospel is no distinguisher of persons. And for those of us who claim the gospel as truth, we can not be either.
Truth and love are the foundation. They are the constants that keep us steadfast in our convictions and genuine in our actions. But they are also the enablers that give us the confidence to engage all types of persons and adapt to all kinds of situations for the sake of effectively sharing the gospel.
The more secure I am becoming in my identity as a child of God who has been loved by and created for Him, the more freedom I am experiencing to not only truly express who I am, but also to make others secure to truly express who they are. I am experiencing the beauty of the impact and the richness of the relationship that results from adapting to and affirming personality types and backgrounds that are different from my own. Unconditional love is the anchor. The uncompromising truth of the gospel is the motivation.