When I went to school in Idaho I loved a certain spot in the Rexburg temple in the waiting area of the baptistry. Each time I went there I sat right there–in that same spot– just because of a certain picture.
It was a painting of the Savior holding a little black sheep, right beside the pew in the back. I would stare at it and think about everything that it meant to me. Essentially, it seemed that I was actually the one in the Savior’s arms in that picture.
And if you’re reading this and you’re a misfit too–perfect. I’m glad there’s two of us. Or three. Or maybe even more than that. Either way, it’s good to know I’m not alone in the category of “Mormon misfits”. So welcome, friend.
How am I a misfit, you might ask? I simply don’t fit the conventional mold of what an LDS woman should be like, or I should say, what an LDS woman is often like.
I have a tattoo, to start. A huge one, actually, on my ribcage. I wasn’t always a member, and I have physical signs to show it–that also includes a scar on my bellybutton from a past piercing.
I work long hours while my husband goes to school and I have an “I want to be the CEO of every department” mentality *Well, I’m just a writer and not a CEO, but you get the point*
I can’t have kids right now. That doesn’t mean I don’t have the desire–it’s just the way my body works because of an ailment that can only be fixed with expensive treatments that we just can’t do right now. And it constantly hurts–like a bruise that just won’t go away because it keeps getting poked at.
I can’t sew. Like, at all. I can’t even hem a pair of pants. And during Relief Society craft nights I’m pretty darn useless. And I haven’t canned even one jar of peaches in my entire life.
I question pretty much everything. I’m not saying I’m a doubter–ok, sometimes I am, and that’s a downfall. But mainly what I’m saying is I’m the type of person who analyzes everything and tries to figure out why things are the way they are. I think that’s why I over-studied the history of the church and even went on a week-long church history tour where I spent over an hour staring out of the window that Joseph tumbled from. I just wanted to know and feel it for myself, not just hang on to the coattails of others.
I’ve never really fit in with Relief Society. I try–but it’s hard for me sometimes. I love the women, I do, and this isn’t me saying that I don’t. Actually, on the contrary–I find myself being overly critical of myself because I wish I could be more like them. They’re all so–perfect. At least in my mind, they are. They come in with their line of cute children on sundays like a mother duck and her ducklings, and they seem to know everyone and have time to make soup for all the sick members and cook for the missionaries every Tuesday night and do their visiting teaching every single month. Perfect Mormon women, in my eyes.
Anyway, I could go on and on with my list of how I’m so different–but I’m not going to turn this into a trilogy of me. But if you’re a misfit I’m sure you have your own lengthy list and together we could make a seven-book series.
But lately it’s been heavy on my mind–this whole black sheep thing. Because sometimes you just don’t want to be.
And just this last weekend when I forced myself to go to the Relief Society broadcast (and even the food and mingle get-together beforehand which is very un-Kayla of me) the nagging feelings were very prominent.
I sat down at a table that on one half had sister missionaries and on the other half had mothers. The sisters chatted about investigators, school before their missions, and how tight the waist bands on their skirts have gotten while out on their missions and being fed all these good dinners. They’re cute girls–but I couldn’t relate much. So I decided to tune into the women on the right side of me. One woman chatted about how she could barely take a shower today because of her colicky baby and one said she couldn’t either because of the puddle of Elmer’s glue her son left on the carpet and another lady busily talked about her last C-section and how she thinks she’ll be induced in this next delivery. With my freshly washed hair and newly painted nails and absolute absence of any glue-smearing child, I decided I didn’t really fit in at the table.
But then the broadcast started. I chose a pew where I didn’t really know anyone and to be honest…yeah, I started watching it with a stink of an attitude. But that changed when Sister Reeves (The 2nd counselor in the General Relief Society) started talking.
Tears filled her eyes as she suddenly pinpointed the sister she wanted to talk to, out there somewhere in the world, who just doesn’t fit in to the cookie-cutter mold of an LDS woman or family. I felt like everyone had stepped out of the chapel as she spoke. She spoke about wounds you might carry that make you wonder where God is, and the things in your life that separates you from the norm. And then she told a beautiful story of the Provo tabernacle that was gutted with flames earlier this year. After the horrific event, members started questioning why the Lord allowed it to happen. But then, at the General Conference following the fire, President Monson announced that that gutted tabernacle would soon be revamped and dedicated as a new temple of the Lord. People couldn’t believe it. Mouths dropped. But it was true. And just like with us, she reminded, sometimes the Lord allows the fire so as to make us into a beautiful temple.
And then President Monson spoke–and he too, spoke to the misfit. Maybe not everyone caught that–but I sure did. He spoke about how everyone is in a different situation. Everyone has different journeys. Everyone is entirely different and sometimes takes a walk through the thorns. But no one is alone, for the Savior has walked the EXACT path you have, and continues to walk it, even now, WITH you.
With my face in my hands, I felt an overwhelming feeling of love wash over me. In that moment, I felt the arms of Heavenly Father literally wrap around my little misfit self and remind me that I’m EXACTLY who I should be and that being a member of the church doesn’t mean I’m supposed to carve myself into an ideal “LDS woman” image. It means that I can be just as I am–scars, questions, lack of sewing skills and all–and add to the rainbow of color that this gospel stands for.
You don’t have to fit in. We aren’t called to be the same. Yes, we all follow the same straight and narrow path and there are commandments we all need to abide by in the same way–but we can still be different.
I’ve always known it, I guess, deep inside. But often the culture makes you believe something that isn’t really even there. There seems to be a phantom ideal image that lurks in the minds of everyone and makes them believe they just don’t fit. But it isn’t true. Don’t buy into that thinking.
After all, as a member of the Mormon church, aren’t we really supposed to be misfits anyway? We’re supposed to think a little differently and all see the world a little differently, all the while on the same path toward salvation. I think sometimes we forget that–and that’s why we expect so much from others and ourselves.
As President Monson so sweetly said, the Lord has a specific love for you. Unique, different, beautiful, misfit you.
So, fellow Mormon misfit, come along this journey with me, because we all belong here on this path.
Bring your dinners that you often burn to a crisp, bring your lack of love for skirts, bring along your battle scars and wear them as a badge of how far the Lord has brought you, and bring questions and different perspectives that no one has acknowledged before.
Come along this journey, black sheep, and find comfort in the arms of the Savior of the world–the original misfit himself.