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"Spiritual Misfit" by Michelle DeRusha

spiritual misfit

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.

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  • EV

    My deeply INTJ husband calls it swimming in the sea of doubt – some people struggle to get onto solid land and others release and float in the sea. At 45, I’ve (also an INTJ) learned that right living makes up for right knowing. God tells us to love our neighbor; love mercy, do justice, be light so others may see your good works and glorify the Father. When I get that down, I’ll go back to figuring out the minutia of my faith. God’s not going to look at my orthodoxy in my faith and say, “thou good and faithful servant.” It’s taken years of practice on both of our parts to release the need to know for needing to be. I hope we are getting it for a few hours each day.

    • I would go one step further and say that the grace and mercy of God make up for both. We are saved by grace through faith – and faith is neither correct doctrine nor righteous living but trust in Jesus Christ.

      I’m INTJ also and am likewise in the process of learning that I can never figure it all out. My natural bent towards intellectualism combined with my education in Reformed circles (for which I am extremely thankful for; I’m Lutheran but attended a Presbyterian/Reformed school for many years that contributed greatly to my spiritual growth) drove me towards rationalism, but the more I study and read Scripture the more I am convicted that I must not rely on my own understanding, but on Christ alone.

  • I just finished this book myself. As a Jewish-born Christian I’ve felt like a ‘spiritual misfit’ too, so it was nice to know that there’s other people out there who feel the same way (even for different reasons). These sorts of memoirs have been like church to me over the last few months.

  • I’m coming to the conclusion that faith IS the struggle – that if you have all the answers and assurance, faith is no longer needed. I believe God has a multi-dimensional character, which is why seemingly contradictory truths can exist at once. One thought that has helped me to live with the gray is that God will always be bigger than my understanding. And knowing how limited my mind can be, that’s a very comforting thought.

  • If you are asking historically, historical Jesus was most likely failed apocalyptic prophet. , That is generally consensus opinion among Biblical scholars and you can read an overview of that argument in Bart Ehrman’s Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of New Millennium. Tim O’Neil also has a good introductory explanation: https://www.quora.com/Jesus/What-are-Tim-ONeills-specific-objections-to-the-Christian-belief-that-Jesus-is-God

    As for philosophical arguments, I don’t think that you are going to successfully explain why did someone had to die for sins of other people unless you go to some surreal places. You might have more luck with doctrine of moral example, but that is a minority position.

    • I put very little stock in the Historical Jesus and the entire Jesus Seminar line of thinking.

      • Well, this is actually the opposite of Jesus Seminar. To my understanding (and correct me if I am wrong) Jesus Seminar tried to represent Jesus as a liberal sage, someone just like them. Conservatives, too, try to cast Jesus in their image. More credible approach is to figure out what where messianic expectations for Jesus in the 1st century by his early followers.

        • I meant more the focus on studying Jesus as only an historical figure and trying to determine (by vote, in the case of the Jesus Seminar), using religious writings, what Jesus actually said and did, and who he was in a purely historical fashion.

  • Here is a blog post that I connected to on this topic that you may also enjoy. Clarity is the opposite of faith, and sometimes faith is what God is asking us for. Samantha, God made you and loves your inquisitive mind and your searching heart. Don’t try to change. But just know that sometimes God NOT allowing clarity for you is His plan.
    http://www.forteebello.com/life/faith/the-day-i-stopped-asking-god-for-clarity/

    Also, there is Sader prayer that says: “You abound in blessings, God, creator of the universe, who sustains us with living water. May we, like the children of Israel leaving Egypt, be guarded and nurtured and kept alive in the wilderness, and may You give us wisdom to understand that the journey itself holds the promise of redemption.” AMEN

    May you (and I) have wisdom to understand that the QUEST for knowledge and understanding is more important than the answers, and it is that journey itself that holds the promise of redemption.