Made to Be Different–and Hating It

It’s one thing to take seriously the Romans 12:2 command–“Do not conform to the pattern of this world”–when it comes to moral issues; but with more harmless tastes and interests, I have bumped my nose against majority opinion (even in Christian circles) often enough to wonder why I was born in this world at all.

  • The obvious jobs are in technical skills and 9-5 office work; I can’t see myself happy with anything but creative writing and a flexible schedule.
  • I hate having a TV news channel in my face while eating; it’s getting near impossible to find a restaurant where the walls aren’t lined with them.
  • I can’t stand grim stories and unhappy endings; popular fiction thrives on just those characteristics.
  • My business acquaintances greet everyone with a squeeze on the elbow; I’d as soon be bitten on the leg as touched with anything but a handshake.
  • Everyone else at the weekend retreat spends leisure hours with the television set or on the volleyball court; I’m bored to tears by both, and I can’t find one person to play board games with me.
  • Every group, class, and seminar wants you to take a turn introducing yourself to the group and telling where you grew up/what you got last Christmas/which animal you’d like to be; I absolutely loathe the regimented approach, and no one understands enough to start a campaign for its abolition.
  • For all the compliments I get on my writing, I can’t create a blog post that draws more than five comments, or put up an e-book that one person will buy.

Stopping that list before I talk myself into major depression and everyone else into jumping to the next article, I think the point is made: there are those of us whose natural tastes in everything from food to music style to clothing seem to stand out in irreconcilable contrast to what “everyone else” likes. And it doesn’t matter whether “everyone else” shares our moral or theological convictions; one choice is every bit as valid as the other. One could almost wish it weren’t: instead of either the comfort of our moral convictions or the knowledge that we need to repent and change, we’re left with a painfully lonely “what’s wrong with me?” feeling and a major temptation to despair.

Or, at least as likely, to bitter anger. “Nobody cares how I feel. … If they cared they would make an effort to accommodate my preferences. … Why am I always the one who stands out? … Why couldn’t I have been made with other tastes or born in a different time? … It’s not fair!”

If you’re reading carefully, you may feel a reprimand coming on in the form of Isaiah 45:9: “What sorrow awaits those who argue with their Creator. Does a clay pot argue with its maker? Does the clay dispute with the one who shapes it, saying, ‘Stop, you’re doing it wrong!’ Does the pot exclaim, ‘How clumsy can you be?'” (NLT) Or as someone else put it, “Does a machine call its inventor dumb?” Anyone who sulks over being the crowd oddball is effectively (and yes, sometimes directly) saying to God, “What are You, a sadist? Did You give me this brain just so You’d have someone to torment with the pain of standing out? Do You enjoy the fact that there’s little I can do for this society and little it will do for me?”

Not that knowing the principle helps with the basic problem: it may just increase our anger (“And on top of all that, You’re rubbing it in that I don’t have a leg to stand on and You have a right to make me miserable!”) and throw it into a violent tug-of-war with guilt. Leaving one feeling more abandoned and isolated than ever.

So, leave off the “I shouldn’t” and consider the “why I should.” Since few would seriously argue that God makes people “different” out of sadistic pleasure, can we find comfort in considering what other reasons He might have?

One clue is in Ephesians 2:10: “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Handiwork doesn’t come out of a mass-production machine; each piece is carefully and uniquely designed. Some are more obviously unique than others; but isn’t that one thing that, in the art world, makes a piece more valuable? Why should human beings, made in the countless facets of God’s image, be any different?

Look at the rest of the verse above: “[Each of us is] created … to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us.” The conclusion is inescapable: God knew exactly what He was doing when He made me–and everyone else who feels isolated or “different.” And He doesn’t make us to stand out for the sake of standing out: He makes us so we can carry out specific, perhaps extraordinary, tasks that He designed specifically for us and that fit wonderfully into His larger plan for making the world over to His eternal glory and for our eternal joy.

So if God has great things for us to do, why can’t we find them? Perhaps because we ignore the chance to look to Him for instruction as we struggle to reason things out for ourselves (and our judgment there is more shaped by that infuriating “everyone else” world than we want to admit). Perhaps because we’re just plain selfish and want too much convenience and comfort. Perhaps because we have the idea that God’s guidance itself should be clear and immediate; perhaps because our all-too-human impatience leads us to panic and figure we must have missed the path if we haven’t seen it yet (and every hiker knows the danger inherent in searching for a path in panic). Perhaps because we’re more works-minded than God is, afraid He will think less of us if we don’t get everything right quickly.

Ultimately, the misery we inflict on ourselves over our stand-out tastes is just another way of trying to conform to this world: we want to be like everyone else (or force everyone else to be like us) because we want the immediate satisfaction inherent in pleasing human beings rather than God. We hurt Him as well, not simply by our bad attitudes but by the self-abuse of refusing the path that He designed to be the best and most fulfilling for us. He doesn’t want us to be “normal.” He wants us to be His.

Why not spend fifteen minutes today reviewing Bible verses on how much God loves you–and thanking Him for making you just the way He did?

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6 Comments

  1. Steve Duson

     /  September 19, 2014

    I love this: “perhaps God is less works-minded than we are.” That has a real ring of truth about it.

    Reply
  2. Susan Bozarth

     /  September 19, 2014

    The question you asked “So if God has great things for us to do, why can’t we find them?” is a struggle I deal with myself. It is a good point you made. I think part of my struggle is that God made me very independent (for good reasons) but I need to remember I should always be dependent on Him.. Thanks for your thoughts.

    Reply
  3. Great thoughts! I struggle with the same feelings. I like the way you’ve tied it to our having a specific purpose from God that requires those very qualities that make us stick out instead of fitting in.

    Oh, and I will join you at the board games any time!

    Reply
  4. Jo Swank

     /  September 22, 2014

    I always appreciate your , sometimes brutal, honesty! After pouring it all out, I love your bottom line….maybe God doesn’t want us to be “normal,” he wants us to be HIS! Add to that Trey’s encouragement in his sermon yesterday….wouldn’t we be more eager to get out of bed and start each day if we truly understood that Jesus is calling us with, “I believe in you’!!”

    Reply
  5. After I read this, I specifically set up a reminder to comment on your post. Took me a month to get down to it, but it’s never too late to show appreciation and support.
    I just wanted to let you know that I truly admire and enjoy your writing and find your blog extremely useful. I am not the most religious person on this planet. I do believe in God with all my heart, but I don’t go to church regularly. Nevertheless, I find a lot of comfort in your writing. It never fails to set my mind to peace.
    I truly wish, and hope, and believe that you will succeed in your writing, because I feel that this is where your soul belongs to, and a person following her or his heart cannot be going down the wrong path.
    So, good luck with all your creative endeavors! And stay as unique as you are.

    Reply

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