About five years ago, around the time my Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Catholic Catechism came out, a national Catholic newspaper ran a story on it — and me — with the headline, “Apostle to the Idiots.” That snarky label was clearly meant to convey a certain attitude toward those of us who write and read Idiot’s Guides on topics any more serious than, say, camping or jazz music or Microsoft Word. But, guess what? I wore that title as a badge of honor because what that newspaper didn’t get was the fact that the folks who read my books and follow my blog and others like it are a breed apart, not “idiots” but something outside the norm, something unusual and original and wonderful: misfits, in a sense. So today I am declaring myself to be Apostle to the Misfits, those people who color outside the lines, who are quirky and eccentric and true to themselves and their beliefs in the most glorious ways. We are misfits; hear us roar.
This past year I have felt a shift toward something deeper and bigger and more powerful than what I’ve done in all my years leading up to this point in my life. Not bigger in the usual way society sees it. I’m not a bestseller. I don’t have thousands of people leaving hundreds of comments on this blog every day. But bigger in a God-sense, because day after day I find my world expanding and my heart along with it, because misfits are about Love and about following Truth, no matter what the rest of the world thinks or says.
Being a misfit is really nothing new for me. I didn’t follow the crowd in high school. I didn’t follow the crowd as a twentysomething, and I’m certainly not going to follow the crowd at age 50. I’m a lifelong misfit, and I’ve always been okay with that, more than okay, but kind of quietly okay. Now, however, being a misfit seems like the most amazing opportunity in the world, and I want to advertise it. Why? Because being a misfit means we are not bound by anyone’s rules, only by Love, and I’m surrounded by a band of misfits here on NSS who feel the same way. We walk to the beat of our own drum or guitar or kazoo, and I love each and every one of you.
All of this has been crystalizing for me in a big way in recent months. I find myself wanting to reach out and out and out, to mentor a young writer, to hug a troubled friend, to commiserate with another mom, to seek wisdom from a mentor of my own. Gone is the need to compete or succeed (in worldly terms); in its place is the need to connect and collaborate. Just recently I was given an opportunity to take on a job that probably would have given me much more visibility and definitely would have given me some much-needed income, and I briefly considered climbing on board because how could I not? It made good business sense. But it didn’t make sense to my heart. It didn’t make sense deep down in my soul. Finally at 50 years old I know who I am and who I want to be, and I knew without question that this particular job wasn’t going to help me get there. Rather it would push me back in another direction, a more confining, tension-fraught, competitive direction. So I walked away from it because that’s what misfits do, because we know it’s not about how many blog hits or how many comments but about touching hearts deeply and honestly, even if it’s only one heart a day or one heart a week. Love isn’t a numbers game.
Jesus said people would recognize his followers by the way they loved each other, by the way they loved everyone. Not a few, not many, but all. That’s why the Gospel is so hard to live. That’s what makes true followers total misfits in the eyes of the world. It’s not an easy calling, but it’s a noble calling.
Pope Francis recently said that the Church needs to be a community that says “yes,” a “community of open doors.” Amen to that. Maybe he’s the Pope of the Misfits, which would be A-okay in my book.
I can think of nothing more I’d rather do at this point in my life than bring together people from all different walks of life — which we do on a very small scale here at Not Strictly Spiritual — and form a community of misfits that will change the world one person at a time. Who’s with me?