You Were Made to be Different (And that's not a bad thing!)

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well. (Psalm 139:14)

Different - for most of my life that word has cut through my heart like a dagger. From a very early age I recall feeling “different;” I wasn’t like other kids - and especially other boys - and in grade school often found myself the target of painful taunting and ridicule. Despite the fact I’d become a Christian at the age of 15 and understood I was a child of God, for most of my teen and young adult years I actively hated who I was, constantly looking at others with envy and believing my life would be so much better if I could just be someone other than myself.

So what does God’s word say about being different?” Thankfully the Bible is filled with all kinds of encouragement for anyone who feels “less-than!” Paul’s words in I Corinthians 12:12-13 & 21-27 provide a great foundation:

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

...The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

Each and ever member of the body of Christ has incredible value and worth - what a relief and source of comfort! I remember a period in my life when my self-esteem was at rock-bottom; as a result I spent hours in the gym every day working out, believing that a perfect body was my only ticket to having some measure of value and worth. No matter how hard I worked there was always someone who had more muscles or better defined abs; most days I looked in the mirror and hated what I saw. It was never good enough.

I’d love to say these struggles went away when I rededicated my life to the Lord 15 years ago, but that wouldn’t be true. This struggle with believing I have worth and value simply because God says I do has been the hardest to accept and believe. Those daily battles at the mirror continued, even after I’d gotten married in September of 2010, and sheer panic set in when chronic pain began to inhibit my ability to work out and maintain my physical appearance. That same chronic pain was ironically the tool God would use to help me finally take to heart that God loved me - I didn’t have to strive anymore to become something else.

That’s the message from the Proverbs 31 devotional today titled “You Were Made to be Different.” The author shares about her own struggles in high school to fit in, and the lessons God has taught about her value as a uniquely created individual. Her reflection on her own struggles resonated deeply with my own; she writes, “Embracing the beauty of my differences has honestly been something I’ve had to learn. While I don’t do it perfectly, I’m definitely better at accepting my unique God-given design than I was in high school.” It’s been quite a journey for me as well!

She also talks about the choice we all have - to believe the lies of the enemy and this word, or to “embrace our unique design and live serving the God who made us.” To that end, the author issues a challenge each one of should take to heart: Stop wasting energy trying to be someone you’re not. Focus on being yourself. God made you to be different. And different is a good thing!