For Love of Misfits

"Small Yet Significant," © Lynn Abbott Studios
Small Yet Significant, © Lynn Abbott

© 2014 Lynn Abbott

Rolling hillsides, farms, avocado orchards and Dutch dairies peppered the geography of rural North County.    And after moving from a major metropolitan area and leaving the fast-track of worldly success behind,  this city mouse found all things country rather fascinating.

Of course, I wasn’t concerned about city fame or fortune. After all, I was only nine when my parents decided to migrate south.  My parents, however, carried big city values with them. For this reason, they immediately enrolled me in a wonderful, private school with impeccable academic standards.

My first day of classes certainly did open a whole new world for me…although I’m not sure it was quite the introduction my parents had in mind.  The teacher, a retired drill sergeant,  introduced the lesson, and assigned in-class, practice work. He then slipped out to “ditto” a worksheet in the teachers’ workroom.

At that moment, the well-oiled, mischief machine revved. One boy scampered to his preordained lookout post near the classroom door, and then, the merriment ensued: students played leap frog over desks and started spit wad fights.  Wide-eyed with wonderment, I watched quietly from my  back row seat.  It was the stuff of children’s books.

I loved my new friends, and they warmly welcomed me.  Of course, there was always plenty of good-natured mischief to go around.  But there were also birthday parties at Hollandia Dairy, and idyllic horseback rides.

For the area, that actually wasn’t out of the ordinary.  Hollandia Dairy was the primary landmark in town and its iconic windmill stood as a beautiful reminder of all things pastoral.  But the thing was… I differed from my classmates in one significant way. I wasn’t Dutch.

Happily, none of us seemed particularly concerned with my family tree deficiencies…  Instead, my new friends attempted to correct it by teaching me a variety of Dutch phrases.  And together, we laughed heartily over my blunders. In light of these adventures, my previous city life faded.

Then, my aunt and uncle arrived in town just in time for the school’s commencement and award ceremony.  I’ll never forget my uncle’s stunning post-ceremony observation:  “You were the only brunette in that entire crowd, Lynn!”

He was mostly right.  I could number on one hand the brunettes in attendance.  And that list would include everyone from kindergarten through eighth grade.  Yup.  I certainly stood out in the crowd.

With my uncle’s revelation, my point-of-view shifted.  I instantly became self-conscious.  My new friends were as wonderful as ever, but my uncle’s words couldn’t be denied.

With that one offhand remark, my uncle had unintentionally introduced me to a solitary slough of adolescent-like fears: I was different. And I felt a little like the “ugly duckling.”

Obviously, adolescents haven’t cornered the market of self-conscious fear. Elementary school kids worry about fitting in, too.

And unfortunately, the fact that I wasn’t blond worried me from that evening forward.

In fact, I’d venture to say that growing up as brunette in southern California and listening to the Beach Boys croon, “I wish they all could be California girls”  would disturb even the most stalwart of heart.  Self-doubt niggled at me.

I worried despite my parents’ loving reassurance that being unique was fantastic.  Thankfully, unlike L.M. Montgomery’s Anne, I never attempted to dye my hair.

Granted, my uncle’s “eureka!” moment was relatively minor in the grand scheme.  Yet, that fateful day I sampled a smidgeon of self-doubt.  At the time, I was heartbroken.

I suppose that at some time or another all people question their place in the world.

Maybe, like me, you remember a time when you felt out of place and wondered if your “oddities” would prevent you from making your way in the world.

You’re not alone.  I think the feeling is fairly universal.  Perhaps, that’s why Rudolph, the Red Nosed Reindeer remains an endearing Christmas classic.  We cheer for Rudolph and his friends, the misfit toys. They are the unlikely heroes.

I certainly empathize with the underdog, and that’s why I’ve always loved Ehud’s story.  Maybe, you’ve heard of him.  For many, however,  Ehud is only an obscure and passing “mention” in Judges, chapter 3.  Nevertheless, he offers a beacon of hope for all who have ever doubted their abilities or value.

You see, Ehud’s life reveals God’s incredible grace.  I used to think that grace was a New Testament anomaly, inaugurated by Christ’s birth.  And without a doubt, through Christ, God’s love not only burst into time and space for all of humanity to see, but it also manifested itself in the ultimate sacrifice, a selfless gift of unlimited access to the throne of grace.

Indeed, Christ demonstrated love for misfits not only in His death but also through his life. Jesus surprisingly sought the company of misfits, the lost, the socially unacceptable, and the seemingly insignificant.

His love, however, was nothing new. He has always been a God of grace.

His grace, in fact, saturates past, present and future.  God didn’t suddenly change when the new covenant was made. God’s nature has exuded grace from the beginning of time.  He has always loved misfits.

And Ehud was no exception.  He was left-handed and that proved a serious handicap in early Israeli culture.  In a time when swordsmanship and hand-to-hand combat were necessary for the defense and survival of a fledgling nation, being left-handed was definitely a disadvantage.

Ehud probably felt like a failure. Unnecessarily so, as it turned out.

I don’t know why Ehud or even you or I miss this. But we do despite the fact that nature repeatedly demonstrates God’s love of the unique.   Abba clearly loves “ugly ducklings.”

Thus, when the Israelites prayed for a deliverer, God chose Ehud.  Ehud, the odd… Ehud, the lefty. Ehud, the unlikely,  would confront the Moabite oppressor, king Eglon.

So Ehud strapped a double-edged sword to his right hip, covered it with his cloak, and requested a private audience with Eglon. When the Israeli judge mysteriously announced that he had a message from God, Eglon stood eagerly.

At that moment, Ehud reached under the right side of his cloak.  His move did not raise suspicion because right handed men wore their swords on the left. Imagine Eglon’s surprise when he receive a sword rather than a written message.

The “handicap” proved an asset.  That day, the misfit became agent .007.  An ugly duckling saved a nation.

Truly, no matter how small, insignificant, inadequate or even out of place I may feel, Abba determines the outcome.  He loves to use “the foolish things of this world to confound the wise and the weak things of this world to confound the things which are strong,” (1 Corinthians 1:27).

Abba, in stunning grace,  frequently chooses those who don’t appear to fit.   He particularly loves the misfits and the broken.   Never mind that my paint is chipped or that I’m not the largest dinghy in the boat yard.  The Master promises that His grace is sufficient and His power is revealed spectacularly in weakness.

Indeed, you and I may feel out of place, but God whispers again and again:  “I choose you. I love you. You’re significant.”

“…’I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore I have drawn you with loving kindness,'” ~Jeremiah 31:3

 “…the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.  For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world…” ~1 Corinthians 1: 25-27a

“And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me.  Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong,”~ 2 Corinthians 12:9-10