I am an exceptional person.
Now, my beloved readers, before you begin chastising me for being prideful, for claiming perfection where none exists, or for failing to recognize that I have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, please note what I’m actually saying–not what modern man has determined my words mean. I am an exceptional person, meaning that I have so many exceptions in my life that it drives those around me crazy. Not a perfect person by any means, just an idiosyncratic one.
When I was a toddler young enough to have perhaps a fifty-word vocabulary, I remember begging my mother to find “The M&M Song”. Yes, I do actually remember this–just one more quirk of mine. And the memory isn’t one I must struggle through muddy mental waters to retrieve–it’s right up there with the article I read ten minutes ago, or the chocolate croissant I had for breakfast yesterday morning. But that is beside the point–back to The M&M Song. I did not then, nor have I ever since, owned a song about junk food. I was actually referring to a Christian children’s song that joyfully described the attributes of a life lived in Jesus. Why, then, the odd song title? Not out of irreverence–not by any means. It’s just that one of the instruments with which the song opened sounded, to my not-quite-developed ears, the way peanut M&Ms do when shaken in a small bag with just enough air in it to give it that little umph. But I didn’t have the words to explain all of this, so I requested The M&M Song, and my mother searched for it in vain for half an hour.
It was around that time that I discovered that no one would ever understand the M&M Songs that my mind happened to conjure up–the books in which I ignored the conflict but could focus for long durations upon that little crease at the top of page XVI, the need for Roman numerals, my ability to actually taste normal saline during the midst of medical procedures, my utter disregard for peer gossip in the eighth grade in favor of Jane Eyre, my Anglophilism that reached such heights that I began converting any dollar amount into pounds before contemplating the monetary value, my propensity to turn all dates since 17 August 2002 into anniversaries and remember those dates like precious jewels, my love as a new Christian for Leviticus and Revelation while others read Psalm XXIII and I Corinthians XIII. My nineteen-thousand-file audio collection has been organized using a systematic set of codes rather than according to song title–the better for actually finding those songs: Integrity Music with Integrity Music, Vineyard with Vineyard, sermons with sermons, etc. I’m the sort of person who moans and whimpers when she develops a migraine and who loathes all auditory, olfactory, and gustatory stimuli during said episode, but who still puts mind over matter enough to enjoy the glories of worship music and Communion and the fragrance of anointing oil even despite the throbbing headache. In Braille, Biblical references are contained at the bottom of each page of Scripture; sometimes, when reading mainstream Braille books, I catch myself looking at the bottom of the pages in hopes of finding “Ch. I, narrative section-Ch. II, description”. I flatly refuse to listen to any Christian songs that employ grammatical errors, since said miswordings affect the theology–be it ever so unintentional. If I hear someone make a reference to “rivalry”, I almost expect them to say “revival” and am disappointed when they don’t. And did you know that some people just about sing with joy–even if they’re speaking in a normal, conversational voice? A friend of mine once asked an intense question in the Lord, ending her query with a single-syllable adverb; now, any sentence that uses that structure reminds me of Sincere Sister’s question. Those of you who are familiar with French will understand when I say that I live my life in the passe simple and would almost certainly use it exclusively if I had grown up in a French-speaking country, passe compose being much too mundane for the beauty of the life God has given us. Last Sunday, I was in a new church when the person who had invited me apologized for interrupting a work session with my guide-dog, Natasha. All the situation required was a simple “that’s all right”. Was that my reaction? Never! Instead, I tried to grab hold of her heart, to make her understand: “Oh, you have no idea… I hadn’t had Christian contact in two months, don’t you know!? I don’t care how important that work session was–it can and did wait, because my prayers were answered and I finally found the companionship of someone who loved the Lord, if only for a few minutes. Thank you so much for so-called interrupting! …”
It all began, I believe, somewhere in infancy. I was born with a severe medical condition that shaped my life rather dramatically. While other young children had nice little checkups (read THE BERENSTAIN BEARS VISIT THE DOCTOR, take height and weight and temperature, all done!), I sustained countless blood draws, often involving multiple venapuncture sites since my veins were so difficult to find. Of course, other children just got a sticker, while my family and I always went out afterword to the local restaurant/gift shop/series of rides/hands-on museum. A wonderful, comprehensive place was that one eatery! Other kids complained about eating their vegetables; I couldn’t get enough of the broccoli I was served once in a blue moon. Others got colds, ate some chicken noodle soup, and got themselves sent right back to school in a day or two. I had many clotting episodes, which only plasma could fix and which chicken soup might have hindered if that soup had any parsley in it, and was sent back to school with much homework to catch up on in a week or two.
Note that I have not used the word “suffer” in the preceding paragraph. That’s because, truly, that’s not how I see things. I’m not “trying to be inspirational”–it’s just that, despite the horror of some of those medical crises, I saw the hand of God move so mightily that I could never question Him or my circumstances. Case in point: If I had been leading the typical teenage life rather than holding it all together in a hospital bed on Christmas Eve one year, I would never have met the lovely Christian nurse’s aide whose husband pastored a Pentecostal church in, of all places, Las Vegas. Or had the opportunity to pray for a young girl and her parents as that girl was taken to be with Jesus. Or been able to rejoice in good health when I finally had it restored to me. Or played Don Moen’s album THANK YOU, LORD during one of many MRIs. Or listened in rapt attention as one prayer warrior after another read the Scriptures on healing.
But medical conundrums were not the only exception in my life. There was that little difference of me being a Braille reader. And, for that matter, a cane user, a carrier of textbooks the thickness of your arm, a devotee of audio materials, and a loather of all things film-related. In short, blind. And by the time I was in first grade, I knew that this would simply be part of life–something that set me apart from my cartoon-loving, ball-playing classmates, who worked merrily away at cursive writing while I tried to master twenty, then thirty and forty words per minute using PCTyper–way off in a little corner with my own official-looking computer and office chair, you understand, and in an era in which not everyone owned a personal computer. Exceptions aplenty. Opportunities aplenty, too. For example, I was once asked what I was reading and, when I explained that I was reading the Bible, the questioner remarked condescendingly that my choice of reading material was “so cute”! What better opportunity, so long as she was letting me tell her about my “cute little life”, to proclaim the Gospel!?
Then, there was the other exception–the best, but least tangible or explainable difference between my life and that of the Joneses. In crowded public schools that often taught from an impersonal perspective, or expected us to learn evolutionary principles, or enforced reading material that I was not comfortable with, I was a five-year-old Christian with a pastor’s desire to delineate between right and wrong. Gently helped along by my parents, who had been influential in instilling this sense in me, I did not participate in the reading of any books involving magic, in certain art projects, etc. Now, before you tell me that I led a sheltered life with no fun and ask just what denomination I belonged to anyway, may I just say that this was the best parenting decision my mother or father ever made? As to your denominational question, I’m everything from Methodist to Church of God to Calvary Chapel to Charismatic–wherever people love Jesus, there I try to go to worship. Now, many of my teachers found this frustrating over the years, and several students wanted to know just what I was doing in lieu of some day’s uncomfortable story hour. Then, too, I would often be asked to do math review or other distasteful assignments if I didn’t participate in certain class activities. My reaction to this? “Holy is the Lord!” No matter what, and no matter how anyone around me felt about it, I couldn’t ignore the fact that I was doing this for Him, not conforming to the things of the world, and that this assertion made everything all right. It was the least obvious exception, but the most wondrous, by far.
What is my point in telling you all of this? Simply that I have never given up the M&M songs of life. The exceptions that shaped my life as a child continue to influence how I see and experience things today–from dates and Roman numerals to grammatical errors in worship songs to the passe simple.
And–don’t you know? It’s all been such a gift. For me, the fact that wind chimes are inextricably linked with songs of praise is so special that I wouldn’t choose to see life “conventionally” for a day, even if granted that opportunity. In many ways, being so literal yet so poetic, so detail-oriented with a theological bent, simply enables me to see God’s glory more clearly. If I were a little more conventional, I would push aside my disinterest in sports long enough to enjoy a televised game or two with friends or family–but would I then have the time that I do now for listening repeatedly to eight-minute British worship songs? If I saw the larger picture rather than focusing on details, I might be more successful as far as social and business principles are concerned, but would I enjoy the richness that comes from having compared each offering made in Leviticus and examining what they meant in the scope of repentance, love for God, etc.?
Then, too, being very different has kept me in mind of the things of God from day to day. A typical morning’s thought processes go as follows: “13 December. On this day in 2004, Naomi and I sang “Holy, Holy, Holy”. He is holy! I must get up and feed Natasha. Think on His commands when I lie down and when I rise up. Evening and morning and at noon… “Natasha! Come in!” She’s been outside for the morning long enough–but the Lord has given us dominion over the creatures He has made, that we might love and care for them… Now for her food. Metal bowl–light and flimsy, like some of us if we don’t focus on more intellectual pursuits. One cup of food. How many ephahs would that have been in Biblical times?” And so it goes. That sort of mindset, trying to stay constantly in the love and knowledge of God, changes my outlook on life. It’s rewarding, joyful, enriching.
How about you? Do you have a personality trait that lingers just outside of convention? What about one that is conventional, but thus far unuseful to you–like extreme assertiveness? Whichever camp you fall into, try to find something about the way the Lord has created you to use for His glory. In my case, it’s using a series of little quirks to associate more of my day with the things of Him. In yours, it might be redirecting the assertiveness that has given you such success in your career, and using it for evangelism. Or using all the gentleness inherent in an introverted heart to demonstrate true longsuffering patience to everyone you see. Don’t misunderstand–there are things in all of us that aren’t personality traits, but temptations that we give into and that can become sinful. Those are not gifts. But what you were born with, what sets you apart from other people–use it! Use it, because He gave it to you, and because you are fearfully and wonderfully made! Use it to glorify Him. Be different. Be set apart. “Be holy, for I AM holy” (Leviticus 20:26, I Peter 1:16).
Addenda: In keeping with the sorts of unique things I tend to remember and even cherish, I’m entitling this two-part series “Wonderfully Made” after a children’s song that seems to have first appeared on a 1986 Maranatha! Kids recording. Not the M&M Song, for the record. If I’m being truly authentic, that’s the M and M Song; ampersands should not exist in our language. Also, this is only one perspective on the traits that make me the person I am today. True, I perceive who God has made me to be a gift, but that doesn’t stop certain of these same traits from being a thorn in the flesh at times. Perhaps some of my readers can relate. If the Lord wills, that will be the subject for the second part of this series.