"You should know the truth, and the truth shall make you odd." This quote is attributed to Flannery O'Connor, an incredible Catholic writer and essayist who lived deep in the American south. Her words are a play on Christ's words from John's Gospel, "If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free."
When I first heard this quote, I didn't quite know what to think. Initially, I wasn't sure if I wanted what Flannery O'Connor was offering. Throughout my life, I've longed for belonging. Why would I want to be a misfit?
This desire for belonging looked different in various stages of life for me. In grade school, I bought a pair of crocs just to fit in. I hate crocs. In high school, I went to parties and retreats longing for someone to recognize me, to call my name from the crowded room. In college, I went to campus events with the desire to find 'my people', to fit into a group. I may not have liked what I was buying, or the actions I was doing, but at least I felt like I fit in.
But what if Flannery O'Connor is right, and we're actually called to be the odd ones out as Christians striving for sanctity?
Recently, I sat down with friends and watched The Greatest Showman for the first time. After watching, I wanted to join the circus. I may or may not have sang at the top of my lungs in the car for the next few days afterward.
Set in the mid-1800s in New York, P.T. Barnum fights to make his dream of starting a circus a reality. He puts together a show that stars the misfits of the day. Those who have been rejected by society take the center stage at Barnum's circus. In creating the circus, he created an environment where each person in the show could be themselves.
The song that was nominated for 'Best original song' at the Oscars was 'This is Me'.
Keala Settle, who plays Lettie Lutz (a bearded woman in the circus) belts out: "When the sharpest words want to cut me down, I'm going to send a flood, gonna drown them out. I am brave, I am bruised, I am who I'm meant to be. This is me."
As Lettie marches towards the circus, she's met with glares and glances from the crowd who sees her as different, a misfit. Circus protesters shout for her to leave, to go home. She responds, "Look out 'cause here I come. I'm marching on to the beat I drum. I'm not scared to be seen, I make no apologizes - this is me."
Surrounded by her new family of misfits, her anthem encourages each person to be unapologetically who they were created to be.
After watching The Greatest Showman, Flannery O'Connors words began to make sense. The path Christ invites us to walk on beside Him is a path that is odd. It bucks the culture. It has us swimming upstream and fighting the odds. There is nothing normal about Christian life in today's culture.
What if the parts of your story that no one wants to hear actually set you apart for a unique mission?
What if the unique way that Christ calls you to holiness is exactly the thing that makes you unrepeatable?
What if the Lord is calling you to be His holy misfit?
What if, like one of Flannery O’Connor’s more than a hundred peacocks, we're called to live a life that attracts because of its out-of-place beauty?
The path to Heaven calls for us to buck the status quo, to break down walls, and tear apart the boxes that we're put in.
"Strengthened by so many and such great means of salvation, all the faithful, whatever their condition or state, are called by the Lord - each in his or her own way - to that perfect holiness by which the Father Himself is perfect," Pope Paul VI wrote in Lumen Gentium back in 1964.
So let's embrace this odd life. Let's live a life that makes other stare, wondering about what we have that makes us so . . . different