If you ever want to increase your capacity for torture, I recommend the following: be the overweight, nerdy kid when you are about to play a team sport in 6th-grade gym class. The moment begins when the hard-nosed physical education instructor declares that today’s game of dodgeball will now be a popularity contest. Glancing over the list of potential future-Prom King and Queens, he chooses his favorites. Captains. So it starts.
Adam is the first to go. No surprise there, really.
Pick me. Pick me. The words start to play out in your head like a power chant, a mantra, willing either Captain Nike or Captain Adidas to give you a fighting chance.
There goes MacKenzie.
Just. Pick. Me. Already. You feel your palms start to sweat, praying nobody sees you on the verge of breaking down.
He just started here! Pick. Me.
Finally, the moment arrives. The final two. It is between you and Booger-Brian. It has to be me. Has to. He doesn’t even know how to play dodgeball! Finally, Captain Adidas is ready for his selection—your breath is heavy in your lungs—the room is tense—who will it be—
This scenario played out in a small-town middle school back in March 2001, complete with the charming, yet pudgy hero being chosen dead last. I wish I could tell you that things worked out in that game, that the underdog hero single-handedly stared down the squadron of goons led by Captain Nike, and walked away with victory in his grasp. It didn’t happen.
In fact, 10-seconds into the game, an errant rubber dodgeball found itself on a collision-course with our underdog’s face crashing into his nasal cavity with enough force that it left him searching for consciousness among the stars now clouding his vision. According to the school nurse, it was a simple bloody-nose not worth all of the commotion. To those in attendance, however, they witnessed the birth of a legend. Crybaby had arrived.
Welcome to my life. My name is Jeremy and I am a misfit.
For the earliest part of my life, I found myself the social outcast, the nerd, the kid chosen last. When it came to team sports, if you wanted a fighting chance… apparently it was best I was absent from your team. The thing that hurts? I freaking love dodgeball. Love it. And I was pretty darn good at it, consistently serving up a display of back-bending maneuvers that inspired The Matrix and slinging cannonballs with measurable zeal: my opponents but moving targets in the shooting gallery of life.
Well, I was good. Until Adam hit me in the face with a rubber dodgeball, at least. The sound of rubber meeting skin, combined with the wailing soon produced out of my pain-sensitive 11-year old self, led to the sealing my fate: Misfit..
Harry Potter had it easy, man. Sure there was an evil powerful wizard hellbent on seeing his life ended, the possibility of the world as we know it being overcome by darkness every chapter, and the whole fire-breathing dragon thing; but he still had an invisibility cloak! He could have literally chosen to throw that magical quilt around his shoulders and— abra kadabra— face the onslaught of insults another day. Or he could have turned them into a toad. There was always that possibility.
Me? Not so much. With the tears falling like I was auditioning for a one-man show interpretation of Niagra Falls: The Musical, I had to take it all in. The stares. The groans of my teammates as we witnessed yet another player fall to Captain Nike and the Swooshes. We had lost, and I blamed it on myself.
True story: From March 2001 until December 2009 I refused to play a game of the sport I loved so much. 8 long years. Why? Because the pain of being chosen last stuck with me.
Some of you know what I mean, too. You replay that same movie over and over in your head, the unease, the famous collywobbles come settling in. It just sticks. Welcome to being a misfit.
collywobbles (col·ly·wob·bles) noun. intense anxiety or nervousness, especially with stomach queasiness.
For many of us misfits, that’s the ugly truth. We shoot down our own desires, dreams, goals because someone once said “you aren’t good enough” or we believed the odds were against us. We said “yes” to their opinions, their voice, their agendas while saying “no” to one person whose opinion matters the most: ourselves.
Oh, my fellow misfits, think about the wasted opportunities…
… ever wanted to write a book but felt that nobody would want to read it?
… ever wanted to try something new but were afraid of failure or being judged?
… ever wanted to ask out the pretty girl but the very idea of rejection stopped you?
It happens to the best of us. The popular kids. The Captain Adidases and Nikes of the world. The downtrodden. The skate-by-ers. The shy ones. The class clowns. The “Stepford” moms. The rich and the poor. At some point, we are all a misfit.
The good news: It is never too late, and most importantly… YOU ARE NEVER ALONE.
In December of 2009, I gave myself permission to play dodgeball again after 8 years of saying no.
It took a lumberjack of a man with a majestic beard, the leader of a group of “middle school” aged students to coax me out of retirement by asking a simple question… “Do you want to throw dodgeballs at kids?”
I said yes to my own desires, and I showed up. I played. Some say I dominated. But for me, I also found a new passion. A new desire. A new goal.
I got the opportunity to say yes to helping other misfits, “middle-schoolers” discover a life where they are loved. Where they feel they belong. To let students know that not only is it okay to be a misfit, but a bearded man named Jesus Christ desired to hang out with them.
Look carefully in your Bibles, y’all.
Tax Collectors. Can you imagine wanting to hang out with the IRS?
Jesus Christ said yes to them. To the middle-schoolers who I peg with a dodgeball. To you.
And Christianity isn’t about a popularity contest. There are no Captains. No feelings of being picked last. We are all picked equally. We BELONG.
Don’t just take my word for it either…
“I know what I am doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future to hope for.”
– Jeremiah 29:11 MSG
“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
– Ephesians 2:10 NIV
“Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous–how well I know it.”
– Psalm 139:14 NLT
“You didn’t choose me, remember; I chose you, and put you in the world to bear fruit, fruit that won’t spoil.”
– John 15:16 MSG
You see. We are wanted. We were made to do great things, good works. We just need to be willing to say yes. To put ourselves out there. To try new things. To give it a go. To say yes to Jesus and the plans God has for us.
I said yes to throwing a dodgeball.
I found a passion in making a difference in a student’s life.
I went from being ashamed to being proud of being just a misfit.
Because if I am just a misfit, I am in pretty good company.