You may not have known I was a dancer in the 80s. Just a boy, his dance belt, and a dream walking the mean streets of NYC.
I’ll bet the people who voted to hire me as their next pastor had no idea of my past. But that’s okay…
…because it’s just a joke. Absolutely no one would have paid to see me do a twirl—unless they had a fondness for dancing bears at the circus!
But it’s something I say to my wife when we’re in a yogurt shop. I use the names of different flavors as my supposed “dance name” from the 80s when I was a young man. “Vanilla Bean Praline” got a big laugh, as did “Mocha Latte Fudge.”
That may seem like an odd jest for a pastor to make. But since I’m a 250-pound man in his mid-50s, the chance of anyone else taking me seriously is pretty non-existent. My personal favorite dance name by the way is “Rainbow Sprinkles.” Try as you might, that’s a tough one to get out of your head.
But to those who might think it’s undignified for a pastor to joke about himself that way, I’d say very simply, Lighten up! That some Christians I’ve known can’t seem to make fun of themselves may mean I’m a bit different from the norm. At first, that difference bothered me and I tried to fit in with the others. But now, I actually see “fitting in” as part of Satan’s specific strategy to destroy my ministry. Seriously.
No, I’m not overstating this. You see, God created me to stick out. I was never meant to be normal. In fact, normality would forfeit almost everything God has equipped me to do.
I confess, I usually hate articles like this one. You know…self-empowerment feel-good mumbo jumbo telling you, “Now go out and be the best ‘YOU’ you can be!” I mean, where’s Oprah when you need her?
But I’ve learned something important about trusting how God has made me. While never rationalizing my own sin, I’ve finally stopped thinking everyone else is right, and I’m wrong. And I think God is actually happy about that.
When you don’t fit in anywhere, it doesn’t mean you’re the problem. It may just mean God has a unique purpose for your life.
It’s not the curse you think it is. It’s really not. Though it may be your greatest irritation, weirdness also may eventually be your greatest blessing, too.
We Christians haven’t always encouraged people to be unique. At times, we seem suspicious of anyone having a little too much fun, as if fun is synonymous with sinning. Some are distrustful of anything not explicitly “Christian,” so Christian artists feel required to put a cross in every creative endeavor.
I remember one play I’d written for the church at Christmastime. We had a bunch of “bad guys” in the plot, a group of comic villains trying to do something dastardly to the heroes in the story. I’d written a song for them all to sing together, called It’s So Good to Be Bad. The song was meant to be ironic, and the mean things they took joy in would never be enjoyed by any normal person.
At the end of one rehearsal, one church lady came up to me and said, “I’ve been watching your rehearsal, and noticed that the bad guys do not change their hearts by the end of the play. But wouldn’t it be great to have them all give their hearts to Jesus at the end? Then they could sing together, “Now It’s So Good to be GOOD!”
I just stared at the woman for a second. It took a while because I was desperately trying not to say what I was really thinking. I have a problem remembering what things should be part of my internal monologue only.
Finally, I smiled and said, “No,” then quietly walked away. Not only would it have been bad for the show creatively, but it would also have made Christians look naive about the world.
I’ve known those Christians who had a saccharine view of reality that didn’t coincide with the real world where everyone else lived. Where we worshiped within a constant state of denial. Where we proclaimed loudly, “I am healed,” as we secretly licked our wounds out of public view. After years of feeling out of place with those Christians and praying for God to send me to a place where I’d fit in, he did something completely different. He told me to quit whining and create that place myself.
At first, I felt unsure, unqualified, insufficient. And I was.
But God’s plan was to use what I saw as my freakishness and turn it into freedom. My oddness into opportunity. My curse into my cure, and a hundred other worn-out motivational slogans. Except, they were true.
So I started a church for people who didn’t feel comfortable in those other types of churches. It was incredibly hard work. A lot of the nice normal Christians didn’t always understand what we were doing, because it didn’t “look” like the churches they’d seen before. It was also hard because Satan doesn’t easily give up his slaves who are bound by their own fears. But by finally believing in the person God made me, I created a place where others like me could find God and feel at home as well.
So through my healing, I got to help heal others too. Isn’t that just like God?
Why should we think that just because others embrace the boring, we shouldn’t shine? Since when did mediocrity and uniformity become such admirable goals?
If you only knew the number of times people have tried to tell me how or what to preach so that I’d be more “marketable.” But I’ve found that whenever I dumb myself down to make others comfortable, I forfeit my own destiny. I give up the very thing that God meant to make me interesting. But even worse, I deprive the world of the opportunity to follow the little light I’m shining and find their own way as well!
So what about your life? What is God saying to you?
He’s probably saying that seeing your individuality as a negative is like chocolate feeling inferior because it isn’t vanilla. And who the heck wants just vanilla all the time? At least put some rainbow sprinkles on it, for crying out loud!
But that’s really me, I guess. I’m determined to be God’s “rainbow sprinkles” in a world of vanilla.
Your uniqueness is God’s challenge to finally embrace the fact he’s made you exceptional. That exceptionalness carries with it the responsibility to use it properly, for God’s glory. To whom much is given, much is required. But what God placed in you is too precious to be sacrificed at any altar of the usual.
When called to another place of ministry, I said goodbye to that little church I started. We struggled and worked at it for five years, sacrificing to make it happen. In the process, many people came to Christ for the first time, and others were encouraged that God could use them even if they didn’t fit in.
When I felt God saying my time at the church was done, he used those experiences to attract the attention of another established church that had the courage to want to reach out to the same kinds of “different” folks I’d been attracting. So I began a journey pastoring a church where they encouraged me to be as unique as possible.
Wow, everything comes full circle. What I thought were my handicaps have actually become my advantages! So for you today, in your own life, if you don’t quite fit in, the solution is you have to ask God to help you make your own place where you’ll fit. And by doing so, you’ll be making a place for others as well.
It turns out that even in a world that insists on vanilla, they’ll still always prefer it with a few rainbow sprinkles on top!