Is being different good? Is being different fun?
Is being different easy?
These are questions I asked the group of 2nd graders whom I shared my story with yesterday.
To answer the question, we must consider what is meant by “different.” We go through phases when we strive to fit in, and then periods when we pursue establishing our authentic self. Once again, I might be putting a little tune in your head. The memory of watching Sesame Street when my oldest child was a toddler comes to mind. Ernie would sing, “one of these things is not like the other, one of these things just doesn’t belong.”
It seems somewhere along the way of identifying different “things” we get some type of mindset that it applies to people too, or to ourselves specifically. Scripture tells us we are uniquely made, Ephesians 2:10 (NIV), “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Meaning something made by hand is not an assembly line, cookie cutter product. No, we are all unique and special individuals. Which means we were meant to be different.
Different can seem appealing when we’re talking about creating a new style or breaking out with an original talent. Who doesn’t want to be set apart when it results in affirmation and admiration? However, different doesn’t seem so appealing when it involves disfigurement and defects.
This summer my family and I finally watched Bethany Hamilton’s story, Soul Surfer. I tried to be discrete in my sobbing watching the scenes as they rushed her to the emergency department, her Mom in the following car asking the Lord to please not let her die, medical professionals swarming around her as her parents were pushed to the side. Then she went home. Same home, not the same life. The challenges lay before her, like Bethany lying in her bed looking at her Barbie Doll questioning her own beauty and love in her future, and shopping at the grocery hearing a little girl ask, “Mama, what happened to her arm?” Such an innocent question, but so hurtful.
But you know Bethany’s story, because hello, they made a movie about it! And if you haven’t seen the movie, I highly recommend it, although you’ll probably need a box of tissue, especially if you’ve experienced personal tragedy yourself. So we know that Bethany has the most inspiring ending. She figured out how to return to surfing as the incredible athlete she had within her.
Now, let’s consider another athlete who amazed us last season on ABC's Dancing with the Stars. I have to say, I don’t avidly watch the show, but I did catch a couple of Amy Purdy’s dance routines. I was impressed by her dancing ability, and then to watch intently enough to see she had prosthetics was captivating! Talk about an overcomer!
I touched on these brave women’s stories when sharing my own with the 2nd graders. And they absorbed the message sensitively and respectfully. But when I put up Elsa’s picture, they were engrossed! Why Elsa? Because Disney gave us a story of a girl who was different and felt defective because of it, and children know and understand her character.
Elsa had a gift, but it took a challenge to discover it. Her ability to thaw was suppressed by her fear to love. Once she learned it, what made her different was no longer a curse but completely magical. Kids get that.
Bethany Hamilton was an amazing surfer, but now she's even more, she's inspiring. She faced the possibility that she may never be able to get up on a board again, but she still tried. Now she’s touched countless lives across the world with her courageous story.
Amy Purdy, on top of being a three-time world cup gold medalist, is a dancer, model, speaker, spokesperson for the National Meningitis Association, and a co-founder of a company who helps adaptive athletes get involved in action sports.
So the questions remain…
Is being different good? No, it’s not always good.
Is being different fun? No, it’s not always fun.
Is being different easy? No, it’s not EVER easy.
But I am encouraged by these stories because what could have caused the story to end actually was what spurred the next chapter.
Personally, I could have never imagined the Lord using my most heart wrenching experiences to touch others. The countless times I laid in bed asking, “Why didn’t I die too?” The many incidences I’ve wanted to crawl in a hole when people stare, or much more, when they point. The memories. The fear. The disappointment. The heartache. The loss. It’s been a journey. Honestly, there are times I still cry. One moment. One decision, at such a young age, changed absolutely everything.
In time, I began to see all the goodness which came from it. I just had to wait. Because only the Lord could have written a story like this.
No, it wasn’t good. No, it wasn’t fun. No, it wasn’t easy. But through the difficulty, I've had the chance to see God’s hand at work in my life. He didn’t intend this tragedy to happen, but He is the Author and Finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2 NKJV), which means He gets the final say. He’s writing the scenes and I’m grateful to be in His storyline.
Yesterday, I looked at about seventy-five 2nd grade faces and shared my story. They learned about rules to keep them safe, they learned about burn injury, they learned about accepting others as unique and special individuals, they learned not to laugh at or make fun of other people, and I hope they learned sometimes in life, we must simply wait. Because God can use what's different. He loves what's not like the other. Just wait… He'll show you.
Psalm 27:14 NIV
Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.
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