I just finished reading a novel. It was good, I think. I mean, I kept reading it (even when I should have just gone to sleep or gotten to work or anything other than read). So it must have been good. And it was actually not a young adult book this time, although it did have some young adult characters. Kind of. It was about time travel, sort of, but also family and love – but it wasn’t a romance.
It’s actually really hard to describe this book. It doesn’t fit comfortably into any genre or category.
Kind of like people.
My about page uses a lot of words to sum up my blog and my life. I say that I write about faith and family and food – not really because those are my main topics, but because I love alliteration. Nailing down – and sticking to – a niche has never been my strength as a blogger.
On that page I also tell you that my Myers Briggs type is ENFJ, that I’m a Type One on the Enneagram chart, and that I have the spiritual gifts of administration, hospitality and sarcasm. That’s all you need to know about me, isn’t it?
Oh, well, if you need more details to understand me, Buzzfeed has your answers. According to their many reliable personality quizzes, I am Josh from Clueless, Cece from New Girl, Lady Sybil from Downton Abbey, Robin from HIMYM, Leslie Knope from Parks & Recreation, Jessie from Saved by the Bell, Jerry from Seinfeld, Leonard from Big Bang Theory, Veronica from Anchorman, Princess Leia, Hermione and Rumpelstilstkin.
But even with all that knowledge, do you really know me? Do you know what makes my heart race or break? Do you know what moves me – or paralyzes me? Do you know what I dream about, what I fear, what I long for? Do you know me?
You might. But not because you can put me in any certain category. Because as much as I love personality quizzes (and, oh, I DO), they aren’t exactly foolproof. And as much as we love to attempt fitting into those personality quiz boxes (types, numbers, gifts, strengths, TV characters), nobody fits any description to a T.
Mark and I lead a small group at our church. Well, actually, we’re taking a break this summer but a few months ago we were leading a small group. The topic of the week was the story of the prodigal son, and one of our discussion questions asked which of the main characters we most identified with – and Mark said something that has stuck with me ever since.
He said, “I think we’re all those characters at some point. You know, sometimes we’re the wandering son. But other times we’re the father being asked for forgiveness or the “good” son who stayed home and now resents the prodigal’s welcome back.”
Yes, that is so true. We ARE all of them at some point. (That guy is so smart!)
I realized years ago that my struggle more resembled the older brother’s than the younger one’s. I let pride and anger rule my heart when I’m not careful, when I’m not honest about my own sin. But then when I’m brave enough to face my own shortcomings and listen to the conviction in my heart, I see clearly the ways I’ve hurt others and made mistakes and messed up just as badly as that younger son. Other times I’m the one who’s been abandoned or hurt or mistreated, and I have a choice to make when that person asks for forgiveness.
At some point I’ve been all those characters – the wandering one, the prideful one, the forgiving one.
(You can read the whole story of the prodigal son here.)
This year marks the 30th anniversary of The Breakfast Club. That means that over the past few months, mention and play of that movie has been everywhere. And as I’ve been thinking about our obsession with personality quizzes, as well as the story of the prodigal son, I remembered the ending of The Breakfast Club. Not the fist in the air ending (who can ever forget that iconic image anyway?), but the letter the group wrote to the assistant principal.
Dear Mr. Vernon,
We accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was we did wrong. But we think you’re crazy to make an essay telling you who we think we are. You see us as you want to see us – in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. But what we found out is that each one of us is a brain…and an athlete…and a basket case…a princess…and a criminal. Does that answer your question?
Sincerely yours, the Breakfast Club
Right. Each one of us IS a brain. And an athlete (ehhhh…maybe). And a basket case and a princess and a criminal. Yeah, I think that’s what I’m starting to understand.
It’s no news for me that I don’t fit into any box. I’ve never fit in perfectly with any one group of people, tending to float from one group to another because I like them all. And I hate it when someone asks me to name my favorite book or TV show or movie or color or ice cream flavor. Because I like parts of different ones and can’t possibly narrow it down to just one.
But what I’m realizing is that all this time I’ve thought I was weird, unusual, NOT NORMAL, I’ve actually been the opposite.
I’m not the only person who has taken a personality test and scored the same number of points in four categories. I’m not the only person who feels like a princess one day and a criminal the next. I’m not the only person who has been the broken rebel showered with grace and the prideful jerk who doesn’t believe in grace.
I’m not the only person who doesn’t fit into a box.
Have you ever felt like you’re the only one who doesn’t fit? Like everyone else has a group, a place, a niche? Everyone but you? Have you ever been told that you’re too much or not enough or confusing or hard to figure out? Ever wondered why you nobody ever “gets” you, all of you?
Ever taken just one more quiz (or wished for a Harry Potter-style sorting hat), hoping for the description, the label, the answer that truly explains all of you?
You’re not the only one.
None of us fit perfectly into any box all the time. Every single one of us has felt left out or weird or too much of that or not enough of this. All of us have been misunderstood. Nobody is just one thing, one type, one box all the time.
You’re not the only one. But you’re also not unknown.
Even though it may be impossible for any one person to understand another completely, God can – and does. We are infinitely complex, incapable of being pinned down by any category, unable to describe with a single number or type. But the One who created us knows our crazy, complicated ins and outs. He knows the ways we’re extroverted – and the times we’re introverted. He knows when we’re particular and high-strung – and when we’re more laidback, when we’re easily entertained – and when we’re a real tough audience. He knows you, and He knows me.
He made us (“For you created my inmost being…”), and He knows us (“You have searched me, Lord, and you know me.”).
You may not fit into a box or a category or a group, but it’s okay. You’re not the only one, and you’re not alone.
What do you feel like today: the father or one of the brothers? A brain, an athlete, a princess, a basketcase, a criminal?
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I love this. There have been many times when I’ve felt that I just don’t fit. A lovely reminder that our Heavenly Father knows me and I fit perfectly with Him. Thank you for sharing your heart.
Yes, I love how you put that – we fit perfectly with Him!
This is so true! Many times we feel we need to fit in that box and the box gets bent and totally out of shape from being pushed so that we fit. It’s okay that we don’t fit the box of this world, we fit the box God made us for just perfectly.
Micki, I love that – the image of a God-created box just for us! Beautiful.
Recently I was invited to lead a small group in a women’s retreat . In this group during dynamic proposal , two women sadly reported serious problems related to sexual abuse of their children. When the group assessed the seriousness of the matter , there was a consensus for us to stay there andcomfort those women . It was a special moment when we looked for hope in God’s Presence . God used me in a way I can not understand so far, to bring comfort to those women. But in the end of the retreat I was harshly condemned for extrapolating the time proposed for the dynamic, and for remaining out of the larger group to conclusion of the retreat. For me there was no doubt that people are given priority over a structure of an event, but was heavily criticized and excluded so. I just don’t fit to the idea of breaking the testemony of those ladies, and saying that we are out of time to hear their sad histories. To me those women needed a shoulder, and that’s what I have done.
Cynthia, I’m so sorry you were condemned for following your heart. It sounds to me like you were in the right place at the right time for a reason, and I’m sure those women are grateful for your tenderness and obedience to the Spirit.
I have found that all too often personality and attitude get confused. Personality is who we are; attitude is how we feel. Even the sunniest person I know has a black cloud day every once in a while. Of course when I have one, that’s when I am inevitably judged and found wanting without benefit of grace. Thank you for speaking the truth about not fitting into a box. I tell my students they should never attempt to make me fit into a box. I will not fit; moreover, if I catch them at it, I will deliberately make certain I do not fit.
Great point, Brenna – personality and attitude are definitely two different things!