As you may, or may not, know, I’m a bit of a misfit. Wherever I go I tend to do the opposite of what others do to fit in. I don’t misbehave on purpose – it’s a special talent that I possess. This talent has been cultivated through years of shifting between cultures. It began years ago (I won’t say how many years ago) as I am born American to Finnish parents, raised in a Finnish community as a child, grew up in South Florida, and moved over to Africa where I have spent most of my life.
Who does that?
I’ve never fully fit anywhere. From the time I was in school, I knew I wasn’t destined for popularity. My parents’ English was lined with a nearly unintelligible accent that made fodder for the bullies. We lived frugally, that itself was a problem in a society that measures its members by what they look like and what they possess. Mom and Dad grew up in war-torn Finland where nothing was ever wasted; their experience obviously affected them deeply. Eating out was something we never did, we didn’t have up to date hairstyles and cool clothes.
School was a chore (imagine asking my parents an English grammar question in high school), life was difficult, and I tried to fit in and be part of the “in” crowd. Eventually, I came to the conclusion that I was never going to fit in. I decided to learn what was acceptable and what wasn’t; I then did my best to fade into the background. It was easier to go unnoticed than it was to be recognized for who I was – a real misfit.
And then I met Jesus. I have a lovely aunt who introduced me to Him and when He and I got acquainted, I found (for the first time) Someone Who accepted me without condition. I became one of those that brought Jesus into every conversation and people slowly adapted to my new and crazy identity.
Unbelievably even those who said they were acquainted with Jesus thought I was “over the top” with my commitment. While I fit with my Lord, I didn’t fit with those who were my new family. I became “that one” that is in every family – you know the one that makes everyone’s eyes roll when they come into the room? My misfit status remained firmly in place.
My hopes and dreams of doing something for God with my life slowly began to stifle under the same kind of pressure of fitting into what is “relevant” in our Christian circles. I tried to fill that mold as well and began to fade into the background of the noise of what was acceptable. It seemed there was no fitting in no matter where I turned.
What to do with me? Someone who was American but not? Someone who loved Jesus but was crazy? Someone who had dreams for a continent and no plan to get there?
There are few emotions that are as painful as feeling misunderstood and I was willing to go to great lengths to avoid that pain. While I had grown accustomed to being a loner, it didn’t mean I enjoyed the feeling. I slowly found myself bending the truth of who God had created me to be in order to avoid the pain of not fitting in. There was a certain level of misunderstanding and rejection I was prepared to endure, but I secretly hoped those feelings would diminish if and when I would ever find someone I could fit in with.
But that was not meant to be – fitting in is not meant to be for any of us. We are not born to fit in; we are born to stand out. We will “amen” to sermons on the subject, we’ll sing songs about being a chosen generation or being brave, but few have to courage required to live our lives boldly for God.
When God breaks into our lives and we let our walls of self-defense come down, it’s as if we undergo a personality change. I take courage in understanding that the Bible is full of misfits who found their fit when they gave up trying to fit in.
Moses didn’t fit into Egypt or Israel, and even when he spoke with God, he tried to find a way out. When he finally gave up, he led millions to freedom.
Caleb’s courage wasn’t welcome. The other spies and the entire nation of Israel rejected his faith to take the Promised Land. But he stuck to his commitment and he did get his mountain.
Esther was a Jewess in a Kingdom that had called for their deaths – but she found a way to gather her courage. She became part of Jesus’ earthly lineage.
Deborah was a prophetess leading a nation where women were second class compared to men. Yet she found the courage to lead the nation to victory.
Jesus who called Himself God, was rejected and crucified for His own. Yet love found a way to break through and the world is now filled with Christians because He lived His life “out loud.”
The common thread woven between all of these (and many others) was their abandon to self and image. The roads they chose were the roads less traveled by for sure, but I wonder what would have the alternative been for them? Lives lived under the microscope to please others and stay out of trouble?
When we live to fit in or please others, it’s much like paying a bribe. You pay once, and you will end up paying again. It’s best never to pay because it’s a bill you end up owing for the rest of your life.
The only One who is deliriously happy with you at all times is your Heavenly Father. God is your Father and His is the identity you possess and fighting to change that identity only serves to frustrate you and hold you back from rising up to who your Father has destined you to be.
What is the worst that could happen? We fear the unknown to the point of hindering us from fulfilling destiny.
What if I fail?
What if I fall?
What if I miss it?
Where will the money come from?
What if my family doesn’t understand?
Psalm 37:23,24 TLB “The steps of good men are directed by the Lord. He delights in each step they take. If they fall, it isn’t fatal, for the Lord holds them with His hand.”
God is more interested in your getting it right than you are – and He has the power to get you back on track if you take a wrong turn. He’s not in heaven with His charts polling the heavenly host predicting if you will fail or not. He is in heaven’s grandstand cheering us on! He delights in each step we make, even the wrong ones for the wrong ones lead us closer to Him as we find our way in the dark.
It isn’t fatal – it isn’t irretrievable – you can and will get back in step because we are to rise and take our position against our common enemy, Satan. He and his cohorts work to keep us insecure, powerless, fearful, and depressed. Don’t give in to those emotions. That’s not part of the deal!
God has a plan, a marvelous plan for you – do you dare not to fit in with what society says is right and live out loud for Him?