misfitToday is more of a personal post. I’m not sure if it will be “helpful” in the traditional sense. There is no 10 steps or bullet points. It’s simply my heart and how it feels today, though I like to think there is a place here for those sorts of things and that one of you out there might have a need for that.

As I began my journey into Christianity, I found myself to be a bit embarrassed to admit it to my friends. When someone calls and asks, “What are you doing?”, reading my Bible can be the sort of reply you’re not ready to admit. As a former skeptic I, better than anyone, knew the sorts of assumptions and scrutiny that believers endured. After all, I had been making them myself for decades. I admit, I often looked at believers as being as dull, self-righteous, and of lesser intelligence; I mean, how else could they be so damn gullible to believe in people are swallowed by whales and all that crap? However, as God started to move in me, I found myself falling deeper in love with Him and wanted to share my experiences with those I knew and loved despite the fact I knew the sort of labels this newfound belief would bring me. I didn’t start tracking down people to evangelize to or asking my friends about their relationship with God, but it found it’s way into my Facebook posts and other writings often read by friends and family. After all, it has become the definition by how I live my life.

To be honest, I think it has lost me some friends. It’s sad but true and it’s something people don’t necessarily speak about. They don’t tell you about that or the internal struggle you will need to contend with: your love of God (or even just interest in learning about Him) vs. your ego and the fear of judgment of friends/family.  They don’t tell you about how the simple act of asking questions about your Creator will change the way people view you and what a heavy weight this can be. The Bible reminds us not to live for the opinion of our fellow humans- there are so much more important things! That doesn’t mean it will be easy.

10 For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.  -Galations 1:10 (ESV)

To be fair to my former friends, maybe I’ve changed. No maybe- I have. I like to think for the better. Inside, I still feel like all the good, crazy, silly things that make me “me” are still there. Maybe that’s why it still hurts. I still wear odd clothing choices, choose to get tattoos and have a beer now and again; I still swear like a sailor; I still act like a crazy goofball that breaks into dance in stores if the music strikes no matter who might be looking. If I had to guess what drove them away, I would say it’s the assumption of what I’m like now (based on the preconceived notions about believers) that are more of a turn off than any behavior I have actually exhibited in their company. I assume it’s simply the fear that I might break out and evangelize to them, judge their life choices, and spout fountains of cheesy Christian-slang that have pushed them away. It’s not fair, but it is the reality of our world. Just like I still continue to judge people who drive Hummers or have 87 beanie-babies in the back window of their car.

All of that would still be mostly bearable if I felt like becoming a believer made me feel like I “fit” somewhere. I’ve always felt like a bit of a misfit. As I turned toward Christianity I had high ideals of what being part of God’s family would be like. I thought I would have a home, new friends and a relationship that defined me as part of a community. For me, this was not the case. Maybe it is for others- and if so you are blessed and I am happy for you. But I wanted to write this today for those of you who maybe feel like they still don’t belong.

Christians are human above all else and as evidenced by the centuries of disagreement on God’s Word, still don’t work together as a seamless community, so why should the individual members be any different? The people in my church are loving, caring people. Don’t get me wrong, this has nothing to do with the way I’ve been treated, but more simply the way that I feel inside of my church community. Simply put, I feel like a Christian misfit. An outsider. Where I drink beer, color my body in permanent ink, and explore the boundaries of fashion, they choose to abstain and dress simply. Neither is wrong, just different. Where I love working outside of the home and cringe when I have days on end home alone with my kids, finding myself pulling out my hair, having my sense of personal fulfillment torn between raising a family and helping others outside the home, they choose to work in the home and homeschool their children. Neither is wrong, just different. While I still swear, it is because it is a sin I am struggling (and often failing) to overcome; they sin too, just differently. There is a difference between knowing there is nothing wrong with you and still feeling like you don’t fit in. There is nothing wrong with the grey duck (or goose depending on where you’re from), but it still leaves you on the outside of the circle.

Jeremiah29.13Besides these surface variances there are others that run deeper and are perhaps more alienating for me. One of the easiest examples was brought to light in a discussion we were having after service one Sunday. I questioned how I will know when it would be appropriate for me to take Communion and when I felt I could call myself a Christian. Several in my church group responded with “You will know” and that most of them knew the time and date of their conversion. This was a hard answer for me to swallow. As a Christian, it is not often that I feel God with me. That is not the same as knowing He is here. I do. I see it play out in so very many aspects of my life, but I don’t feel Him. I don’t have a conversion date/time. That’s okay. For me it was a process of coming to God and not a simple switch that flipped. I’ve had good conversations with my pastor about this and the misconception and trust that people put into emotions and feelings as related to God and faith. Regardless though, it is a hard thing for me to feel comfortable saying to the Christians that surround me that I don’t feel God with me. This lack of feeling is often tied up with the misconception that it is a lack of faith.

I have been blessed (though often it does not feel like a blessing) with a questioning faith- an unending yearning to know more. To understand God and His plan more deeply. Yes, there are limits to what we can know about God, but I seek to know all I can. To nerd out on the history and context of stories and the definitions of the translated words. This seeking type faith brings me closer to Him, strengthens my faith, and brings me peace (though it may take a long struggle with His Word to get there). Many in my church have an easy faith. I take that back. I don’t know that it is fair to say that faith is ever easy. Perhaps simple or comfortable are better terms. They were raised as Christians or converted so long ago that they no longer or have never struggled with the same questions. When I struggle with deep questions it is often hard for me to find someone in my church to hash these out with. I get many of the same easy replies from folks such as “That isn’t for us to know” or “God is mysterious. Who are we to question?”.  However, I disagree. When it comes to hard to digest ideas such as the Bible telling us that man can only come to faith through God’s calling yet we are all responsible for our own salvation, two ideas that seem to contradict each other, I think it is important (especially for new believers) to have these types of discussions. Yes, I can read books- I do and enjoy it- but it isn’t the same. To know that others in my church don’t question these things is disheartening, but knowing that my questioning them looks to be a lack of faith is frustrating and leaves me despondent.

I don’t want this post to be a downer. I’m not looking for consolation or pity. Know that I am finding people out there that I CAN relate to, that I can talk these things out with and badger with questions. Know that I am finding people who love me where I am at, for who I am, for the type of faith and heart I carry. Know that I am finding people like me- not easily, perhaps, but finding them nonetheless. I am okay. I am loved. What I want you to take from this is that you will be too. That if these things describe you or a fear you carry when you walk into church or open your Bible or think about sharing that post on Facebook, or asking a quesiton, it will be okay. Yes, you may loose friends but I promise you, you have the availability to make new ones, deeper ones, greater ones. You may have to look long and hard to find them, but they are out there. There ARE others out there like you. God made us all unique and beautiful- Christianity does not transform you into a cookie cutter shape. Don’t let fear or loneliness chase you away from God, because I promise you, a relationship with Him is so, so worth it.