Every year as a child, I watched the television special “Rudolph, the Red-nosed Reindeer.” My heart always broke a little for the misfit toys relegated to a lonely island because of their imperfections.
My less-than-perfect legs strapped in braces, and then encased in casts following surgeries, allowed me to relate to those flawed and rejected toys. I couldn’t roller skate, ride a bike, or even run well enough to keep up with my classmates, and was always the last one chosen during games at recess. I knew I was different and “less than” when it came to activities requiring physical aptitude.
And so I adapted. Recess found me playing jacks and tetherball instead of ball games, while paper dolls and reading were my favorite at-home activities. I enjoyed playing with friends, but also spent quite a bit of time in solitary pursuits. It didn’t bother me…most of the time. It was just a way of life.
Living life on the fringes is something most everyone experiences at one time or another. High school years are ripe with the desire of wanting to fit in and be accepted in a community of our peers. Do we ever outgrow the need to be part of something bigger than ourselves?
Fast forward a few decades and I found myself outside the church community to which I’d belonged my entire life. With a new awareness of truth, everything I’d been taught regarding Christian doctrine was called into suspect. I’ve spent many months trying to navigate the waters of spiritual matters in a tempestuous storm of conflicting ideology. Losing my LDS anchor and lifelong identity left me floundering in a sea of confusion. Trying to find a new “normal” hasn’t been easy.
In an attempt to regain my spiritual balance on solid Christian soil, I attended a few different Bible-based churches. Compared to the rigid scripted church services I’d spent every Sunday attending, the non-denominational worship services were a breath of fresh air! Enthusiastic hymn-singing and engaging sermons helped to rejuvenate my Jesus-hungry soul.
Re-framing my understanding of God and improving my relationship with Him are top priorities. A variety of Bibles and study guides are collecting by my bed in my search for knowledge. And biblical discussions with cherished mentors have been invaluable in my quest for truth. But finding a place to call home within a church community still eludes me.
I’ve enjoyed my experiences in different church settings and the freedom to be authentic, but I definitely feel like a misfit Christian. Sitting in front of a stage in a darkened auditorium with colored stage lights and a spotlight on the worship team and pastor feels more like attending a Christian concert than a worship service. Sitting in the dark, I feel disconnected from the performers on the stage and the other congregants, and miss the light-filled chapels of my youth.
I’ve also felt a sense of discomfort with some religious traditions because they’re so foreign to anything I’ve experienced before. And I still get triggered when biblical scriptures and doctrine volley in my head with Mormonism. My heart for Jesus remains true, but a place to call home in the world of organized religion evades me.
Fortunately, a church building isn’t a requirement for worshiping God. Nor is there a need for a pastor or priesthood leader to tell me what to do in regards to a relationship with my Savior. And though I linger on the island of misfit Christians, I’m not alone. Thankfully, Jesus has a heart for misfits. And though I feel like a fish out of water, He has a history of working miracles with fish.