Designed as Different: Finding Your Place in the Kingdom of God

Out of Place – Space’s Story

I was hitch-hiking the country when I fell in-love with Christ.  I came shipwrecked by a prodigal’s living, washed up to the shore in the seafoam of chaos, confusion and clutter.  I was not what anyone expected, myself included.  

I had grown up in a Baptist church, with a loving body of Christians… who all dressed up nice and didn’t do anything sinful.  When I was a kid, God carried a clipboard and tallied up everything I did wrong. 

I revolted, not wanting any part of a performance-driven God, or a polished church without any warts or wrinkles.  I started eating pig slop, until I couldn’t take the shame anymore.  I ran away from my hometown, with thumb outstretched, hoping someone would take me to the edge of the earth and drop me off into the abyss.  Instead, someone took me into their home and told me about Jesus.  That night, my future husband and I fell in-love with the God they knew Him to be.  

It wasn’t long before we began to realize God may have been homeless, but homeless people aren’t necessarily welcomed in just any ol’ church gathering.  We stood out like a sore thumb.  A sore thumb who hadn’t showered in a long time, because showers aren’t all that easy to come by when you’re sleeping under bridges and behind bushes.  

Living as an alien in the kingdom of God

After three years of traveling the country, learning to trust Jesus in radical ways, and dropping the Gospel like an atomic bomb everywhere we lodged, we finally settled into “normalcy” in Northern California.  We had experienced how the Lord used our abnormalities to show the world you don’t have to wear a suit and tie to belong in His Kingdom.  But finally, we were going to get to belong in community, right?  It didn’t take long to realize you can scrub the dirt off with running water, but the hippie remains.  

I was sitting shotgun next to my pastor’s wife, on some unfamiliar backroad in the dark, heading to a Christian Home Educators’ meeting, when she told me, “I can’t wait to introduce you to them.  You are going to mess with their heads!”  My heart sank.  I was being used as bait to expose some legalistic group mindset, rather than ushered to a meeting of future friends.  I felt used.  

It wouldn’t be the only time I would experience this.  I was half-way to a Christian summer camp, hours from home, when my traveling companion said something similar.  

I was okay with God using me to show others a bigger Kingdom, but I wasn’t totally okay with my friends doing it.  Especially not if they waited until we were halfway-to-nowhere to expose their motives.  It solidified the feeling that I was an alien in the Kingdom of heaven, a place I already struggled to belong.  

Growing into my skin

As I grew in Christ, I began to realize things about His affection for me.  One of the things that became evident was that God didn’t just tolerate us being hippies, He actually invented us that way.  He did so, in order that we could be missionaries to a culture not often found in church buildings.  He didn’t just tolerate us coloring outside the lines, He actually created us to be free-thinking, wild-natured people.  He wanted us to learn what it means for US to love God and neighbor, not to meet someone else’s expectations.  We are not chameleons, we are Christians!  

Sometimes I still feel like the awkward stepchild of Christianity.  Usually, when I am beginning to feel sorry for myself, I find myself thick in the middle of sharing something of the Glory that I wouldn’t have to share if I wasn’t wearing my own skin. 

Once, I was sitting across a river from a forested hillside and saw one, lone peach-colored leaf among the sea of green.  I never would have noticed it, had it not been such a distinct color.  As I admired the Creator’s handiwork, He reminded me that I am like that leaf, which made the entire forest more beautiful with its diversity.  

My eldest son had a similar experience.  He came to the same conclusion.

We make the Kingdom look more glorious when we simply allow ourselves to be who we were designed to be, rather than fighting to look and act like others.    

We make the Kingdom look more glorious when we simply allow ourselves to be who we were designed to be, rather than fighting to look and act like others.    

Embracing our role in God’s patchwork kingdom

God wants us to shine in the specific ways He designed us.  For some that may be simple, quiet work.  For others, the work may be bold.  We are a patchworked Kingdom of diverse souls, each made with unique gifts, talents, styles, and callings.  We do not become one by conforming to one another’s wardrobe or gifts, but rather by absorbing the Word of God and abiding in His Spirit.  

What I have been tempted to do (temper my outward appearance to fit in better), most of us are tempted to do with our spiritual gifts and callings.  We like someone else’s life story better, so we try to write a book, when our calling is to scrub toilets.  Or we serve in Children’s Ministry, although our heart is to spend the time in prayer, but Children’s Ministry looks better on our spiritual resume. We assume gifts that aren’t ours’, because we think we have to do everything, forgetful that we are one small cell of an entire, heaven-spun Body.   

When our focus is on holiness, rather than performance, we discover that this is a colorful Kingdom, radiant with vibrant saints.  Every tribe and tongue.  We are adopted in like a whole gaggle of children from different backgrounds and perspectives.  We are not made to clone one another, but to complete one another.  When I linger under the affectionate smile of the Most High, who intentionally, skillfully handcrafted me for His glory, I tend to forget the opinions of others… and I rejoice that He made me a hippie, because even hippies are invited to the Feast, and who better to tell them?  

If you’ve ever felt like you don’t belong, this series is for you! Every Monday, we’ll hear from someone who has also struggled to belong. Be sure to subscribe below to get The Scoop so you never miss a post! s a thank you, you’ll receive access to belonging-themed scripture cards and adult coloring pages in the free for you library!

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Meet Space

Space is a simple wife, mama, soap-maker and Jesus-lover, living deep in the Appalachian hills of Southeastern Ohio. She loves community and solitude, reading and writing, making art and traveling (in fact, she met her husband traveling the country 23 years ago). She is a collector of rocking chairs, whimsical tiaras, golden memories, sacred moments, and well-worn Bibles. She loves a gentle breeze and bark on trees, and the way a good sunset can take your breath away if you let it. And she loves her family! They are her most-favorite people in the world. But most of all she is head-over-heels for Jesus! She is passionate about living her one life well, so that others will see how blazing-glorious He is, and how He makes majesty out of mayhem, transforms our brokenness into gorgeous mosaics, and how lavishly He loves. You can connect with Space on Facebook, Instagram, or on her website!

*Feature Photo by Dinh Pham on Unsplash

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Sarah K. Butterfield is an author, speaker, and ministry leader who has a heart for empowering women to grow in their faith and be intentional with their time. She and her husband and two boys live in San Diego, where she writes about pursuing a deeper relationship with God in the midst of motherhood.

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