This note came up as a memory on my Facebook page. Perhaps you need to know you’re enough…I did today.
M: MVNC, Michigan, Misfits, and Maturity
One of the greatest enemies to my relationships is thinking I’m not worthy or I don’t belong. I have spent my life battling with “I-don’t-belong-syndrome.” So, the irony that M should land on this day is not lost on me. Today has had plans in it for a very long time, plans that God made that superseded anything that could have been done by me. Today is the 30th class reunion of my college graduating class. I was excited to go and see people and reminisce at my Alma Mater. Trouble was I didn’t write the dates on my calendar. I read material from the Alumni Association, but the dates never penetrated my brain. In the meantime, a friend from high school came up with a wonderful idea to travel to Michigan to see another one of our high school friends. When the miracle happened that we all had a Saturday off together I rejoiced and marked that date on my calendar. A final piece of material came from MVNC that was meant to remind me of the reunion and it hit me that I had made the mistake of not marking my calendar. Now what a mess that was! Or was it? Today seems to be a day to deal with my own demons of feeling like a misfit and wanting instant maturity.
Feeling like a misfit goes way back into my childhood. I recognized it most at Christmas each time when I watched the Rudolph Christmas special. I would sit and listen to the misfit toys sing their woeful song and then get all excited when in spite of their differentness they were able to find joy and love when they were reunited with the other toys. Even the “Bumble” found usefulness and meaning. As I grew I seemed to always find ways to lock into the group where I never felt like I fit in: I was never quite smart, talented, pretty, rich, or loveable enough. Those were terrible monsters to battle and I know that those feelings are a part of teenage angst and from a developmental psychology perspective I was struggling to find my identity. Throughout the process I felt like David in Saul’s armor: nothing seemed to fit. But unlike David, I didn’t know how to throw it off and find myself.
The other component that made life that so difficult for me was that I wanted instant maturity. I remember standing on the stage at the end of the Miss Teenage Columbus Pageant. I had actually made the top five. I was now going to have to answer a question that would determine my place among the winners. I was given a list of characteristics and told to chose the two I felt were most important and why. I distinctly remember that one of my answers was wisdom and I think the other was happiness. I wanted wisdom because I knew it was knowledge well used. At seventeen I wanted to have all the answers and the ability to function wisely. Now perhaps that seems like a good thing, but in my answer I see my propensity to want to short-circuit the process. It wasn’t until I was in my thirties that someone finally helped me realize the importance of process, the need to value the process not just to strive for the end result. So now in my fifties, I feel like a kid just sucking the life out of the process and it feels weird and people look at me even weirder.
As I was thinking about all of this I was prompted to pick up my copy of Warren’s “The Purpose Driven Life.” I was required to read this at work several years ago and while I found pieces of it interesting, I was at such a different place spiritually than my co-workers that it wasn’t a good experience for me. I chaffed against it to be quite honest. So this morning I was flipping through some of the pages and I found a section on the misfits of God—imagine that!
Here’s what Warren writes:
“What matters is not the duration of your life, but the donation of it. Not how long you lived, but how you lived. If you’re not involved in any service or ministry, what excuse have you been using? Abraham was old, Jacob was insecure, Leah was unattractive, Joseph was abused, Moses stuttered, Gideon was poor, Samson was codependent, Rahab was immoral, David had an affair and all kinds of family problems, Elijah was suicidal, Jeremiah was depressed, Jonah was reluctant, Naomi was a widow, John the Baptist was eccentric to say the least, Peter was impulsive and hot-tempered, Martha worried a lot, the Samaritan woman had several failed marriages, Zaccheaus was unpopular, Thomas had doubts, Paul had poor health, and Timothy was timid. That is quite a variety of misfits, but God used each of them in his service. He will use you, too, if you stop making excuses.” (p. 233)
Speaking of maturity, Warren also refers to the process of maturing fruit and vegetables. He writes: “When you try to ripen fruit quickly, it loses it flavor. In America, tomatoes are usually picked unripened so they won’t bruise during shipping to the stores. Then, before they are sold, these green tomatoes are sprayed with CO2 gas to turn them red instantly. Gassed tomatoes are edible, but they are no match to the flavor of a vine-ripened tomato that is allowed to mature slowly.” (p. 217)
So what does this all have to do with going to Michigan instead of MVNC? I’m glad you’re still with me to ask the question. Today I’m spending the day with the woman who was class president and so popular I didn’t realize she even knew my name. She has a life that I used to dream would be mine. And today by the grace of God I call her my friend. And we’re going to visit the woman who won that Miss Teenage Columbus Pageant when I was fourth runner up. She is one of the smartest, most gifted women I know and God has blessed my life with her friendship as well. Today I’m marveling in a process that has taken way more than 30 years to effect. Three of us will enjoy the day together, but there are multitudes who have made it possible for me to do so. I can’t name you by name here, but know that you will be in my heart there. Today there is no misfit. Talk about maturity.