For many years, my husband and I led a small group we affectionately called the Palatine misfits. The group earned it's name because of where we met and who we were. Our group could not easily be categorized as singles, couples, or families. Instead, we welcomed people from all walks of life, of all ages. In our church, that made us misfits.
As relationships formed between those in this group, it became apparent that we were also a group of spiritual misfits. Our group included conservative Christians as well as very liberal ones; Those who'd grown up in the church and those who'd only recently begun attending church; Those from evangelical backgrounds as well as those from mainline denominations. Our group found beauty in being spiritual misfits. Our theological diversity allowed us to learn from one another, to push and pull and stretch and challenge one another.
In this book, Michelle chronicles her journey of faith, beginning with her childhood. As a child, Michelle learns “God's not accessible in an everyday kind of way”. In her words, “I never nurtured a real connection to God because that kind of relationship was never presented as an option.” From her childhood through adulthood, “Jesus was a nonentity, an archetype rather than a real presence.”
Eventually, marriage and relocation cause Michelle to begin attending a Lutheran church, where she slowly learns “This Jesus-love theme was not a fluke; this was it, the main topic, the big theme. Jesus wasn't just the subplot, he & his love were the story around which everything revolved.”
Before long, however, Michelle realizes she's the “other, an irreligious person sitting right there in the church pew.” This realization causes Michelle to face her doubts and fears head-on, which she recounts throughout her book. This is, without a doubt, where Michelle's words shine brightest. She describes her doubts and fears vulnerably and with a great deal of humor. (Michelle's description of her backpacking trip in Glacier National Park had me in tears because I was laughing so hard.) Her vulnerability and humor, in turn, lower the defenses of her readers and allow us to find ourselves in her story.
I saw myself in Michelle's analytical nature, in her desire to “analyze the Bible” and try to “master it, control it, manipulate it, and make it our own.” Likewise, I saw myself in Michelle's description of the benefits of service and of how “these endeavors moved her from her own head, where she spent copious amount of time analyzing & speculating about what constituted real faith to a faith on the ground, in action, where she witnessed glimpses of God with her own eyes.”
To be sure, Spiritual Misfit is not a how-to manual. Rather than being prescriptive, it gives readers hope that like Michelle, we, too, will “learn how to seek God every day, in ordinary life”; That we also will come to realize that God loves us exactly as we are, as his “beloved misfits”.
To celebrate the launch of Spiritual Misfit, I am giving away a copy of this book (Thanks to Convergent for this giveaway!) To be entered to win Spiritual Misfit, post your answer to this question in the comments below: When have you been a Spiritual Misfit? The giveaway will be open through Wednesday, April 23 at midnight. A winner will be drawn on Thursday, April 24.