Even in church communities, many people feel like they just don't fit in. As author Marcia Ford says, "all believers are strangers in a strange land— some are just stranger than others. That would be my friends and me." But despite the quirkiness that may set us apart, Ford says we have a good model in Jesus who was much of a "misfit" himself. In fact, God often reaches out to misfits and reminds them that he cares.

Ford is a former religion editor for the Asbury Park Press in New Jersey, associate editor of Charisma magazine, and editor of Christian Retailing. She has written seven books, including Memoir of a Misfit: Finding My Place in the Family of God (Jossey-Bass).

What's the moral of the story in Memoir of a Misfit?

The moral is that misfits have hope. They have the hope that they can live as productive people in society and in the church, and that they can see that God had such love for them when he made them exactly the way that they are. They can embrace and enjoy who they are, with all their eccentricities and quirkiness intact.

You say your own quirkiness began with your family. How so?

We would always walk down the street in single file so that other families could walk by us intact. We were very eccentric in a low-life sort of way, and people just always looked at us funny. So I always thought, "Well, it's my family's fault."

[When I was ten,] I went to Camp Malaga and there was a measles outbreak, forcing us to leave camp early. Being so eccentric, my family didn't have a phone. A stranger had to take me home. I burst through the door and I run into the living room. I stop dead in my tracks. I'm in a roomful of strangers and strange furniture.

It's my house, but it's not my people. Someone looks at me and says, "Well, who are you?"  I say, "Well, I live here." And she said, "No, you don't. I live here."

I look over at the door and I see my driver standing there with my stuff. She's totally confused. She can hear what's going on because there's just a screen in the door. She is looking at me funny beyond measure.

This was probably the first time that I remember anybody looking at me funny when I was not with my family.

Eventually, the people in the house helped me figure out that my family had moved. They did not tell me they were moving.

What was your relationship with God at this time?

I think the biggest problem that I had with God came from a very shallow understanding of what I was hearing every week in church. One Sunday the pastor said, "Except ye come to me as a little child you shall not enter the kingdom of God."

Article continues below

To me that meant being baptized. I was nine years old at the time and I thought, "Oh my goodness. I'm not a little child anymore. I'm nine years old. I didn't come to God as a little child in the form of baptism. And, therefore, how could I possibly enter the kingdom of God?" I was doomed.

I was convinced that since there was just no chance that I would ever get to heaven because I hadn't been baptized as a little child, God was punishing my family by having three of my grandparents die within a six-week period. I sat there thinking, "Well, there can only be one explanation for this. It's my fault."

I left church when I was 12. Yeah. I decided organized religion was not for me so I just walked away from It. And I had no idea really what that would cost me.

In high school, you started to drink.

I introduced myself to a lot of things at that time. I was hanging around with a lot of college-age kids.

When I started drinking, I drank. I don't mean that I got drunk on Saturday nights, I mean I drank every single possible moment that I could. The first few times I got drunk, I realized I could actually pass off into oblivion and that was wonderful. It was great for me to completely escape reality. I didn't like my reality at all.

Where were you in life by the time you left for college?

I had gotten into drugs and I was living a pretty promiscuous lifestyle. And yet every now and then things would happen that would indicate to me that God really was still around and really was interested in me.

One was a situation that occurred as I was crossing campus one night. I had this kind of image of myself as a younger and purer person. I got this very strong impression that God would restore me to that condition. That he was calling me back to himself.

So what happened?

One weekend I had the most wonderful experience. The weekend had been horrible and I had received the worst treatment I'd ever gotten from friends.

[We were at a store] and I went around to the back while they went inside because I wasn't feeling well. I wanted to get some fresh air by the dumpster. I just stood there looking out over the mountains in Vermont. Although I wasn't thinking of God at all, I had this experience of God that I just could not possibly explain.

I was feeling crummy. I was sick and discouraged with my friends. And then, I just felt reality just fall away.

The cars weren't there anymore, the road wasn't there, and the store wasn't there. It was just God and me in these incredibly beautiful surroundings. So at that moment I thought, "If I can feel this great when I'm straight, why am I bothering with drugs?" I never did them again.

Article continues below

But did you feel that, as a misfit, you fit into the church?

I normally never would have gone to this Bible study thing that my friends were involved in, but one Friday night, I didn't have a date. And so I thought, "At least it's better than sitting home on a Friday night." So I was sitting at this place just really feeling awful like I didn't belong there. I didn't fit in, obviously.

Then, this professor got up and said, "God not only forgave your sins he forgot them." Why those words penetrated my spirit the way they did, why they pierced my soul the way they did, I have no idea. All I know is that was the defining moment in my life.

Related Elsewhere

Visit DickStaub.com for audio and video of his radio program (4-7 p.m. PST), media reviews, and news on "where belief meets real life."

Recent Dick Staub Interviews include:

War Is Not a Necessary Evil | The author of When God Says War Is Right says early Christians weren't pacifists but looked at the entire Bible for advice on war. (April 8, 2003)
Jim Van Yperen on Church Conflicts | The author of Making Peace: A Guide to Overcoming Church Conflict says the early church was also "full of problems." (March 18, 2003)
Texas Pastor James Robison on the Life-Changing Faith of George W. Bush | The president of Life Outreach International talks about his friend's faith, the moral need of America, and his own conversion. (March 11, 2003)
National Book Award Finalist Ron Hansen on Christian Fiction | It's important to instruct while entertaining, but method can be as important as message, says the author of Isn't It Romantic? and Atticus. (March 4, 2003)
Gods and Generals' Director Links the Civil War with Today | Ron Maxwell talks about the role his faith plays in his career and what attracts him to the generation of the 1860s. (Feb. 25, 2003)
Why Don Richardson Says There's No 'Peace Child' for Islam | The author and missionary says he has tried to find bridge-building opportunities with Islam, but failed. (Feb. 11, 2003)
Did Martin Luther Get Galileo In Trouble? | David Lindberg talks about the early relationship between science and faith and his own journey on the subject (Feb. 4, 2003)
Dan Bahat on Jerusalem Archaeology  | One of Israel's leading archaeologists talks about the importance of the Temple Mount and key historical finds in the Holy Land. (Jan. 27, 2003)
Article continues below
Eddie Gibbs Reconsiders Gen X Churches | The author of Church Next and Fuller's professor of church growth says his views on church leadership have grown. (Jan. 21, 2003)
Peter Jenkins Finds Jesus While Walking America | The author of A Walk Across America talks about why angels smiled down at him at a revival in Mobile, Alabama. (Jan. 7, 2003)
R.C. Sproul's Testimony | The theologian and author of Five Things Every Christian Needs to Grow talks about how he met Jesus and why playing the violin is like reading the Bible. (Dec. 31, 2002)

The Dick Staub Interview
Dick Staub was host of a eponymous daily radio show on Seattle's KGNW and is the author of Too Christian, Too Pagan and The Culturally Savvy Christian. He currently runs The Kindlings, an effort to rekindle the creative, intellectual, and spiritual legacy of Christians in culture. His interviews appeared weekly on our site from 2002 to 2004.
Previous The Dick Staub Interview Columns: