The answers for a Misfit to succeed often comes in clumsy form: “you gotta start somewhere,” or “just jump in!” are phrases which people utter in effort to muster strength to become vulnerable when analytical answers do not avail themselves. And these responses do hold some truth. After all, nobody can pre-calculate all the risks of interpersonal interaction, and then present a fool-proof plan for navigating such dynamics. (If so, this would be a wealthy individual, indeed!) However, there are a few things to remember when tackling such questions, each of which will be elaborated upon in the upcoming pages: (1) it helps to give ourselves as much grace as we give others; (2) not everybody’s pitfall is an obvious “temptation” (as has been mentioned); and (3) it is through scripturally tackling the pitfalls of the mind that the individual is unleashed from bondage.
Giving Ourselves Grace
I have known people who are so hard on themselves they leave no room for anybody else to even correct them. For these types, their own self–critical point of view leaves little room for correction from others, even when there is occasion for it. I’m thinking of a particular lady as I write this. She is a devout and loving person who seeks God with all her heart. Usually, her offenses are accidental; such as a hastily spoken word or unintentionally inconsiderate act. By the time she realizes she’s done something wrong or hurtful, she’s so quick to mentally beat herself up there is no room for anyone else to do but enter the scene with grace and mercy. However, this young woman is so loving and gracious to those around her that, often, those who have made similar mistakes to her were immediately forgiven without even needing to apologize. Balanced with her tender approach are the carefully but firmly stated stances of biblical doctrine in all she does. This makes her a loving and sound advisor for her peers.
Several times, I have caught this person beating herself up over mistakes of her past, or over-analyzing her own actions in ways that she would never do to another. It would seem that while she is the first to extend forgiveness to another, she struggles to forgive herself. And yet, once God has forgiven, we must forgive ourselves in order to move forward. For this person, there is a simple trick that helps in such cases.
The idea is to step outside of oneself for just a moment, and talk to yourself as though the side of you needing reprimand or advice is someone else. For those who tend to be harder on themselves than they should be, this helps to give the same grace that we quickly show to other people. An ironic thing I have observed over the years is that the people who are hardest on themselves are usually the most gracious to those around them. If you are someone who struggles with self-forgiveness, shouldn’t you give yourself the same grace that you would give another individual? Some people even talk out loud to themselves, saying the kind words they would utter aloud to another person. The method utilized doesn’t matter, as long as the mind is freed from the mistakes of the past.
The bottom line is, for some people, the pitfall of the enemy’s attack is not found in typically recognized forms of temptation, but instead is found in the self–abasement that an individual is willing to put themselves through.
It’s not always Obvious
Some people’s “temptations” are found in what most people within the church would quickly identify as being from a sinful origin. For some, addiction of all types (substance abuse, pornography, gambling, etc.) may be a weakness. For others, pride may be a downfall which causes them to slip up spiritually. For others, pursuits such as greed, money, fame, popularity, and acclaim may cause a person’s spiritual growth to be hindered.
But then, there are those other people…
These are the ones whose attack happens within the mind. Because this is such a subtle and covert tactic, it is difficult to recognize. Furthermore, in such cases, an individual does not necessarily need to commit a sinful act in order for this tactic to hinder spiritual growth. Since there is no catalyst action or intentional will behind this method of attack, it often appears to stem from internal sources which veil its ability to manifest as spiritual combat or lie from the enemy. Problems with self-esteem, lack of confidence, the feeling that one is damaged—virtually any type of inward pain that keeps them from reaching out to other people—become the bonds by which Satan limits a person’s connection to the body of Christ and one’s usefulness within it. This isn’t always recognized for the spiritual warfare that it is for two reasons: (1) because, as has been stated, its source is not found in some overt wrongdoing which comes about as a result of temptation; and (2) life is hard and circumstances have a way of scarring people and making them develop their own fears which are also human in origin. It would be untrue to say that humanity is, in and of itself, incapable of thinking fearful or vulnerable thoughts. However, people forget that Satan has been studying mankind—deceiving mankind—since the Garden of Eden. If such issues have even a seedling in an individual’s mind, they can be exploited by the one who wants to see our downfall. When a person follows God with all their heart, or even has a moral compass which steers them away from obvious sin, these individuals may not fall into the traps that seem obvious to them. These individuals are watching for that type of deception. On the other hand, these are often people who seek to be humble, pious, and unselfish; all of which are good traits. But when this desire for goodness is coupled with a person’s willingness to be hard on oneself, this well-meaning trait can be exploited and twisted into the lie that we must try to daily earn our status with God instead of receiving it as the gift of grace that it is. When this happens, we lost context of what God has created us to be, and forget the mercy he has given to each of us because of his great love for us. We become so preoccupied with what we are not, and so isolated from the Body of Christ, that we can become stagnant in our walk with God or in our ability to serve him. This is because we are so certain of our unworthiness that we disregard the great gift of worth that he has placed on our lives through his redemption.
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And in it all, we lose track of the potential that we have in operating within the kingdom of God, because we daily remind ourselves that we have no worthy place in it. Potential ministries never begin, lives which could be touched remain unimpacted, and our senses of failure and isolation deepen. It’s the most covert attack on the Body of Christ, and it’s an erosion from the inside out. And it’s completely unnecessary, if we could simply realize that we are the toys which actually have differences, but not defects. We’re so good at seeing our own damage. If only we could see ourselves through his eyes.
The Mind is Freed Through Believing Scripture
The third thing to remember when trying to figure out how to open up to others and become involved in the Body of Christ (or other groups of family and peers, for that matter), is to remember that the bondage of the mind is freed by embracing and believing Scripture. This may seem over-simplified, but remember that while we said the Bible provides the key, we never said it was easy. Battles which occur within the mind can be some of the most debilitating: because they stem from the base of our psyche which involves our experiences, our fears, memories, vulnerabilities, and even philosophical arenas such as our moral compass and religious and spiritual convictions. And, as mentioned, these skirmishes can be difficult to recognize because they do not always derive from a cognitive choice or intentional action, but come from a place embedded more deeply within us.
For many, shaking the negative, self-abusing thoughts which keep us limited is the first—and often the biggest—step. So, for the reader who has struggled on this note, we will begin to lay a Scriptural foundation from which we would hope your future self-image can be derived.
We will begin at Psalm 139:12-16:
“[God,] even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you. For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” (ESV Version)
This passage reveals a handful of things that people should understand about their placement with God. First of all, nothing is hidden from God. All the secret vulnerabilities and insecurities that one tries to hide from their peers are completely exposed to God. When God’s word tells us that He loves us, He does so, even with full knowledge of our shortcomings.
Additionally, this passage is very clear that our design, from the earliest onset was done with God’s supervision and awareness. The most intricate, obscure elements of our being are ones that God is not only aware of, but He Himself knitted together. He wrote each of our stories in His book, and He has orchestrated our days.
Do you understand what this Scripture is really telling you? Nothing about you is an accident—a surprise—an “oopsie” that God just later acclimated to.
Nothing. Every little flaw, fear, finitely-human tendency that you have is one God allowed to remain. He watched each fiber of your being as it was formed in the deepest, most secret places of the universe. He could have made you differently than you are. He was there. He watched it. He had the time and the wherewithal to intervene. So why didn’t He do things differently?
At this point, I can’t help but recall a scene from the amazing Kevin Sullivan’s movie version of Anne of Green Gables. Anne, a stubborn and imaginative orphan sees the source of many of her life’s troubles as having been derived from the fact that her hair is red. Marilla, her would-be adopted mother, asks if she has said her nightly prayers. Anne replies, “Mrs. Hammond [a former authority figure] told me that God made my hair red on purpose and I’ve never cared for Him since.”[i] Marilla then firmly informs Anne that while she lives under her roof, she will do so, and then teaches the young girl how. (Despite the rebellious nature of the aforementioned comment, this film reinforces faith, a wholesome moral compass, and generally depicts a simpler time of innocence. In fact, these authors’ highly recommend this movie for families with children of all ages.)
While many might outwardly accuse such a statement of being obstinate toward their Maker, if we’re honest, we have each felt similar feelings over the course of our lives. If the Creator of all watched and even directed as we were each molded, then why wouldn’t He have intervened and removed our flaws as we were forming?
Let’s back up to the very beginning, when God was examining that which He had created:
“And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good…” (Genesis 1:31; emphasis added).
In this passage, the word good derives from the Hebrew tôwb; or tobe; meaning pleasant or agreeable.[ii] God saw that the things He had created—including the man and woman He had fashioned; and knowing in advance all other human beings who would walk the earth—and found them to be not perfect; not without flaw; but agreeable and pleasant in His sight. This was, of course, before sin entered the scene, which introduced a new level of susceptibility toward evil to our nature, but even at this point, we were agents of free will and capable of being misled. We know this to be true because Adam and Eve soon disobeyed God (Genesis 3).
What we see in this passage is that, even before mankind became sinful, we were agents of free will who were capable of wrongdoing, and yet God saw the good in us and found us to be pleasant.
“So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:7-10; ESV).
We see the sentiment echoed in Psalms 50:15: “And call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me.”
The implication here seems self-explanatory, and can be generalized to all of humanity: God allows us to face weakness of all types because it serves to remind us Who carries us. In our time of trouble, He is able to enact assistance or deliverance which we, in turn, glorify Him for.
Isn’t this ironic? We hide because we are so keenly aware of our imperfections, and yet they are our ticket to a closer walk with God—and a connection to those who are truly His people. That very element which may have made you—the reader—withdraw from both Christ and His Church Body is the very drawing factor which should be your ticket to connectivity! Every flaw, temptation, scar, insecurity, and fear is an opportunity to reach out to a Loving Savior who holds the answer. These offer a chance to beckon to our Heavenly Father who formed our heart in the deepest and most mysterious places of the universe, and now holds it in His hand when our earthly fathers have either failed us or exhausted all solutions. They leave an unresolved and nagging pain inside us that can only be mended by the Holy Spirit’s ministry of peace that surpasses the understanding of all humanity (Philippians 4:7).
And, here’s the best part. “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). How does it feel to be the pet project of the Most High God? The Maker of everything not only took the time, way back when, to start a good work in you, but He’s willing to keep at it until Jesus returns! This doesn’t mean until He gets bored, until you mess up again, until someone prettier or someone with more potential comes along. Until the end of this age. For the rest of your life on earth. The only thing that will stop His work in your life is for you to decide you don’t want His help or input.
Should you be embarrassed about your shortcomings? No, they are the lifeline which keeps you connected to the Maker Who wants to daily build you up and make you a better person. Should you hide because of them? No! If they serve to remind you daily of your need for the Lord, and the pursuit of healing continually draws you closer to Him as His child, then realize that every other true follower of Christ is experiencing their own version of the same journey. And the lack of this realization is a lie that has served to divide the Church from the inside out.
Now What About That Narrative?
When we doubt our ability to serve God or His Body, we are downplaying the goodness, talent, abilities, creativity, and other attributes that God gave us. When we sell ourselves short, we think that we are only insulting ourselves. The irony is that when this negative narrative impedes our connection to God or His Body of believers, we elevate our flawed, self-abasing thought pattern above the knowledge of God which states His love and happiness with us, and His confidence in our potential. This is a strange, backward pride we sometimes illustrate by prioritizing our self-abusive thoughts over the positive chronicle that God Himself has spoken over our lives. This brings us back to a previously made point, which is that the reversal of this reverie is done by embracing Scripture’s statement that we are an up-and-coming work in progress, destined to be overcomers, more than conquerors (Romans 8:37).
The first step is to see the value in ourselves that God sees—to understand that our very origin was found first in Him; and that at the end He will individually hold each of us and wipe the tears from our eyes, telling us that we now belong to a world that knows no pain or sorrow (Revelation 21). This is our final destination as God’s people!
So, do you still think you’re not smart, funny, organized, pretty, talented, creative, charismatic, or <insert your own shortcoming here> enough to be involved in God’s kingdom? Or perhaps your hobbies or interests are so obscure that they’re usually not offered in church as one of the pre-type-casted ministries, and this has made you think that it can’t be used in this capacity? Every storyline that plays itself out in your mind to keep you from reaching the full potential that you have in God’s kingdom is a spiritual lie that serves to limit both your growth and your Kingdom contribution. Even more covert and malevolent is the fact that these self–restrictive thought patterns, when we do not bring them into check as 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 instructs us to do, exalt themselves against the knowledge of God. These hinder our progress and ability to truly connect and exchange with other believers—and impede our ability to reach others for the kingdom in your own unique way. When the self-abuse has become the script we believe instead of what God has clearly told us about our potential, we subscribe to a backward, sneaky, covert type of pride: becoming so down on ourselves and so consumed with the self–punishment that we exalt that understanding over the one given to us by our Creator which says that we are loved, we are beautifully and wonderfully made, we have value, we have gifts, we have individually unique forms of service, and that each of us is so innately valuable to the kingdom of God that He mourns over each of us that is lost (Matthew 18:10-14) and all of heaven celebrates at each of us is gained (Luke 15:7).
Sir or lady, if you are believing the lie that you have nothing to give; that you cannot serve; that you are not unique or somehow not “good enough” to blend with the rest of the believers, you are falling for a sinister lie. And, it is time to trade that story in; exchanging it for the knowledge of a God Who thinks the world of you.
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[i] Sullivan, Kevin. Producer/Director. Anne of Green Gables. Toronto, Canada: Sullivan Entertainment. 1985. DVD, 195 min.
[ii] Strong’s H2896, Blue Letter Bible Online, last accessed July 26, 2021, https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/h2896/kjv/wlc/0-1/.