Recently, I was invited by a friend of mine to join Crown’s Blogging for Books, which I think is a fantastic idea mostly because I get free books. The first book I ordered was Michelle DeRusha’s Spiritual Misfit: A Memoir of Uneasy Faith.
The title resonated with me. I’ve always felt a bit like an outsider no matter what situation I was in, but most especially in church. There was always a part of me that wondered do I belong here, really belong? I still don’t have an answer to that question, but Spiritual Misfit helped.
If there was a single word I could choose for this book, it would be “comforting.” Michelle is approaching the questions I am struggling with right now with the perspective of someone much older. She’s been through a lot of what I’m going through, but now she’s on the far side of it looking back. I found a lot of value in that perspective, especially since Michelle is so honest about what it was like for her.
Another way to describe it would be beautifully ordinary. All my life I’ve never had to be told to “stop and smell the roses”—the simple wonders have always fascinated me, and it’s the small things I treasure. Cuddling with my partner while we watch Wolverine and the X-Men and munch on pumpkin loaf makes me so happy I could cry. Michelle’s book is filled with those kinds of moments—and her descriptions are delicate, but moving.
The thing that I appreciated the most about Spiritual Misfit was that Michelle’s approach to her faith is a bit like what mine is growing into. She emphasizes the importance of living your faith. The time in her life that the book focuses on was a time when she wasn’t sure if God existed, or if she had a “relationship with Jesus”—she saw other people having experiences that she didn’t share, and that was when I identified the most with Michelle. When other people are busy having spiritual epiphanies, I’ve been the skeptic silently observing, unable to believe in a reality I couldn’t seem to experience.
Instead of fixating on the intellectual questions, however, Micelle chooses to make her own “leap of faith” by trying to live by the teachings of Jesus. That decision makes so much sense to me, and it’s what I’m currently trying to embrace. I may never have a come-to-Jesus moment, but I can do my best to follow his teachings. She says something toward the end that I loved:
For a long time I was waiting for the perfect moment to declare my faith: the moment I had everything figured out, all the questions answered, the wrestling match finished. In the past I assumed my faith would “begin” when all my questions had answers, when I felt a certain way, when I acted in a certain way. I was waiting for all the pieces to fall into place so I could declare, once and for all, without a shadow of doubt, that I believed in God.
The reality, of course, is that the pieces of my faith had been falling into place all along. Asking “Why not?” was my way of surrendering, of accepting that the single, perfect moment, the moment when my questions were finally answered once and for all, was never going to happen. Asking “Why not?” was my way of realizing I could jump and still have questions. I didn’t know it at the time, but asking “Why not?” was my way of saying yes to Jesus’ invitation to jump.
Part of me doesn’t really like that. Like Michelle, I am an intellectual person, and I crave order and understanding. I just spent the last few months studying Trinitarianism, and it was … unbelievably frustrating. The fact that 2,000 years later Christians are all essentially shrugging our shoulders about something that is supposed to be one of THE defining doctrines of our religion… yup. I do not handle that well. I’d rather believe in a heresy like modalism than have it be that nebulous and incomprehensible.
So the fact that Michelle has gotten to this point in her life and has never found the answers that I spend most of my time desperately searching for—makes me sad, while somehow, still offering me peace. I’ve been trying to learn to “live in the gray,” to accept that it’s the questions that matter, but that is difficult when everything inside is screaming but I want to know.
Spiritual Misfit is a book about living in the gray, of not just enduring, but embracing the questions. It was comforting, and peaceful, and beautiful, and funny, and touching, and honest. I’d recommend giving it a read.