Published on January 9th, 2017 | by Nathan Clarkson
I Am “Different” (And That’s My Greatest Strength)
This is something I have known for as long as I can remember. You see, I was the kid who just couldn’t sit still and focus. My fingers were always tapping on something while my mind changed thoughts like channels.
I was the kid who just couldn’t shut-up; my constant refrain of “why?” often led to getting in trouble and sometimes yelled at by teachers.
I was the kid who would wear bright colors and burst out singing, making me an easy target for bullying. I was the kid who would look around a classroom and realize I was the only one who didn’t understand the math problem.
I was the kid who hoped the screamo music I listened to would drown out the barrage of unwanted thoughts that would burst into my head, thoughts that made me wash my hands so much and so hard they would start to bleed.
I was the kid who, no matter how hard I shut my eyes and tried to sleep, couldn’t keep dark and twisted thoughts from flying through my mind. I was the kid who tried as hard as I could to fit in, but no matter what I did always found myself on the outs.
I was the kid who was different.
The Gap Between “Normal” and Me
All of these “differences” added up to the feeling that I was truly alone. It was like there was the whole world and then there was me. I wanted to be normal, I wanted to be like everyone else who seemed to have it all together.
But as I continued to struggle with OCD, depression, anxiety, learning disabilities, an abnormal personality, and an assortment of other similar challenges, all I kept seeing was an ever widening separation between “normal” and me.
But What If We’re All “Different”?
What I didn’t know then is that everyone feels like this in various moments of life. All of us have disruptions in our lives that make us feel “different.”
For me it was coming to grips with learning disabilities and mental illness; maybe for you it’s addiction, abuse, a fractured family, sexual identity, anxiety, or a plethora of other things.
These issues can make us feel so bad, broken, or foolish, that at the end of the day we think we’re alone, on the outside, and irreconcilably different.
Often, when those feelings would overwhelm me, trusted people in my life would encourage me to open my Bible. I fought it for the longest time, wondering what good it could possibly accomplish in the face of such a daunting struggle.
When I finally did, I found myself continually surprised.
I had always thought that God used a certain kind of person, one who fits the mold of a “good Christian”; however, as I turned through the pages of the Good Book, I found the exact opposite. I found story after story of broken, crazy, sinful, doubting, struggling outcasts whom God decided to use instead of perfect people.
And more often than not, it wasn’t in spite of their differences but because of them that God used those people.
Peter couldn’t stop talking; Jesus used his gift of gab to spread his truth across the world.
Paul was a nerdy know-it-all; God used him to teach truth to millions.
Mary was a simple virgin; God used her humility to bear the Savior into the world.
Rahab was amorous; God used her charm to protect an entire nation.
John the Baptist was crazed and ate bugs; God used his attention-grabbing personality to proclaim Christ’s arrival.
I could go on and on. What I’m struck with in each of these stories is how it’s the “different” part in the lives of each of these heroes that God used.
How God Used My Differences for His Glory
While it’s been a long and challenging journey, I can look at my life now and see how all the “different” things in my life with which I used to struggle have become the things that have enabled me to tell my unique story.
My unbridled energy gives me the ability to keep going when others grow weary; my chaotic mind gives me the capacity to come up with creative ideas; my obsessive thoughts help remind me that life can be lived in a thoughtful and intentional way.
Whatever it is in our lives that make us feel different will often be the way that God will most powerfully work through us.
Being “different” isn’t easy, and it can sometimes be a lonely path, but those differences are often the conduits through which God will tell our unique stories. God can use us not just in spite of our differences but because of them.
What are the things in your life that make you feel “different?” How do you think God might be able to use them to tell a story only you were made to tell?
Different: The Story of an Outside-the-Box Kid and a Mom who Loved Him by Sally and Nathan Clarkson, releases on January 24, 2017 from Tyndale Momentum. Available everywhere books are sold.
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