Am I the only one who automatically thinks of The Island of Misfit Toys when they hear the word “misfit”? Little toys that aren’t quite right, the ones that no one would want to play with. The outcasts, the rejects, the ones who didn’t belong anywhere.
I’ve often felt like I belong on that island. When God gives me crazy dreams that seem way too big for this small town gal, when my accomplishments don’t seem to measure up to those around me. When I look at what she’s doing, wearing, writing, and I feel like a polka-dotted elephant in the middle of a sea of perfectly created toys.
When I was in college the church I belonged to did a beautiful ministry. They opened their doors to the homeless in the area, for a warm place to sleep, a shower, meals. And they introduced them and their stories to the youth in the church with grace and dignity. We listened to their hearts and they shared what brought them to this place – breaking down stereotypes and assumptions about the homeless community that these upperclass youth expected.
One night we invited the gentleman who shared his story to join us at Pat’s for cheesesteaks. Side note: if you go to Philly, get a cheesesteak at Pat’s, not Geno’s, and order whiz with. You’re welcome.
He stood out. In a line of wealthy white high school students, this African American man with the amazing story and huge heart looked out of place to those who didn’t know he was our guest. They saw a misfit. They saw a label. They saw trouble to be avoided and they asked him to leave, told him he wasn’t welcome and shouldn’t bother the kids.
We told them they were wrong. He was our guest. He belonged. They apologized and left but with doubt in their eyes and I watched this man sit and eat with resignation. It wasn’t the first time he’d been picked out of the crowd as a misfit or made to feel unwelcome. But he responded with grace, patience, and dignity – never anger. He loved God and knew he belonged, regardless of what strangers said to him. I’ve never forgotten.
God likes to use the misfit parts of us, the ones that we think are weak and out of place. Those are the places He can shine through brightest, because we can’t take any credit.
If you’d like to win a copy of Matthew Barnett’s new book Misfits Welcome, I’m excited to be giving away 2 copies! To enter, just fill out the giveaway widget – easy as pie!