In my city, there aren’t many places we can go where demographics blend districts. Men and women in suits walk to concrete towers to make a living in the Business district. Budding artists sketch in their loft apartments fashioned from former industrial companies at the Crossroads. On the East Side, smooth jazz and barbecue try to make us forget red lines drawn between races. Wealthy families buy their children shoes at J. Crew on the Plaza. Hipsters curl their mustaches and sip organic coffee in Westport. There are no rules that tell us we can’t spend time in certain districts, but we know where we belong and we go where we feel comfortable.
On the first Friday of April and every warm month following, 18th street becomes a mile-long family gathering of sorts. We come for food trucks, art galleries, street performers, hacky-sack circles, and spontaneous dance parties. No demographic reigns supreme here. Children stare and spin to the tunes produced by local bands while evangelical Sikhs proselytize on the corner, and a man with Rayban sunglasses and tailored pants eats a gyro next to a woman who bought her shoes at Walmart. No one seems to notice. But we all know this is different. We gather, we laugh, we enjoy one another’s company – we all belong here.
These nights feel otherworldly.
Unity is a stolen concept. It doesn’t belong to mortal man. We can try our hardest to be unified and create First Fridays and baseball games and presidential elections that help us rally around a cause. But our efforts will be as insufficient as a child’s attempt to explain why the sky is blue.
We will search the whole world for the unity we cannot find in full.
I once looked for oneness in another. He looked me in my eyes when he spoke to me and saw more than what I said. My winsome words fell to the ground before us like an anvil from the sky, and he looked at them unmoved, undisturbed. He confiscated the only weapon I owned and pointed it at my heart. His words coerced submission he didn’t deserve and our hearts gripped each other until they looked the same. Our unity was veiled, not by white tulle to be lifted on a wedding day, but by kaleidoscope binoculars. We twisted and turned, saw every pattern of color, but couldn’t see the devil right in front of us.
I made a disjointed relationship into a convincing substitute for true unity. I love the invisible force which draws one person to another. We all do. Put a magnet in a child’s hand and you’ll see an instant spark of imagination brighten her eyes. She wants to know the extent of the magnet’s grip. What makes it cling to the refrigerator and not a couch? She may not know for a while, but she’s captivated for now, and that’s enough. Why are magnets intriguing? What makes us play with them, even when we’re fully grown? Hold a magnet above a nail and at some point, the nail will jolt up and stick. Point a compass and the earth will pull the tiny needle North. You can feel the magnet buck toward other metals, but you can’t see the magnetic field. It is an invisible force with shocking power.
But a magnetic draw is not a sufficient keeper of unity. You can take a magnet off a fridge or break a compass. A shared cause, a shared glance, or a shared desire won’t do either. Causes can become corrupt, glances can’t be held forever, and a flame of desire can be squelched. Unity belongs to God. Here, in His three-in-oneness, we see the Creator and Sustainer of unity. It is too big for words and too magnificent for an explanation. God has unity in and of Himself. The three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, are transcendently unanimous.
But this holy God does not keep His unity to Himself. Because of Jesus’ life, death, burial, and resurrection, the children of God can now be made right with the Father through Jesus’ blood, and the Spirit grips these children with an unbreakable grip forever. First Friday unity is a broken picture of heaven’s perfect oneness with the Creator God. Relationship unity is a broken picture of the Trinitarian intertwining we long to image. We can enjoy these unifying things as common grace in this life. We can see the gift of unity in desire, mind, or sports team. But what draws us in fully and completely is nothing crafted by human hands. It is with a mighty hand and outstretched arm that His love endures forever. It is in Him we have also received an inheritance. And it is He that will be with you always, to the end of the age.