To Question Our Quirks

March 25th, 2014

The idea that gifts exist in you that you’ve never noticed (or maybe even forcefully rejected) may seem strange, or even wrong. You might be thinking, How could these tendencies possibly be OK? Why did God design me like this? I struggle every day with [insert area of weakness here].

Every day I hear thoughts like these from friends and clients: laments about how they relate to God and to the world. They overthink issues, worry too much, put things off, argue too much, talk too much, or have any number of other grievances. They fight who they are and beg God to make them different. They mistakenly interpret Scripture, such as the verse that says “those who lose their lives because of me will find them” (Matthew 10:39). They think it means I need to stop being the way I am so I can be more of who God intends me to be or do more of what God has purposed me to do. This often comes out sounding like, “God, please make me more like [insert name of friend you think is perfect].”

Why is this?

Authors Albert Winseman, Donald Clifton, and Curt Liesveld say it’s because we’ve grown up with the “weakness prevention” model, which tells us that to become strong and successful we must correct our weaknesses, develop our areas of nontalent. Then we will be ready to fully serve God and the world.

We’ve all struggled with this ideology—focusing not on our strengths but on our weaknesses—in some form. The idea stems from the school-age question: What about me is OK, and what isn’t? What began as a simple desire we had as kids to understand ourselves, others, and the basic truths of the world became tangled in mixed messages and experiences of loss. Then it twisted into a deep source of pain and shame when we started to assign words like wrong and bad to how we naturally relate to life and people.

I see this happen often in my daughters’ hearts as they progress through school. Most recently my seven-year-old announced, in one of our bedtime-foot-rub moments, that her friends don’t like her because she gets better grades on certain assignments than they do. She’d started getting poor grades in math (her favorite subject) in the month leading up to that conversation, so I took a risk and asked, “Any chance you’re doing the work poorly so they’ll like you more?”

A long silence. Then her sweet, quiet, honest “maybe” opened the door for us to figure out how she could enjoy achieving in her favorite subject and encourage the other girls: she could offer to help them, learn how to change the subject, or ask to move seats and ignore their remarks. Whatever we came up with, the point was to separate her tendency to work hard and effectively with numbers from the judgment of her “friends” at school, because there’s no way this mama was going to let any ponytail diva attack my kid’s love for learning! (Did I mention another of my quirks is that I get passionate about things? This has obvious use—and probably more obvious pitfalls.) You and I were created in the image of God. And God says our design is “supremely good.”

You’re not my seven-year-old, but like her, you and I were created in the image of God. And God says our design is “supremely good” (Genesis 1:31). You and your overthinking, overplanning, worrying, quirky self were made on purpose to reveal God to the world around you in a way only you can do.

In your weirdness. Not in spite of it.

How does that work? We find the answer in Scripture, where Paul (a guy with major weirdness issues that we’ll discuss later) writes the message God gave him: “ ‘My grace is enough for you, because power is made perfect in weakness.’ So I’ll gladly spend my time bragging about my weaknesses so that Christ’s power can rest on me” (2 Corinthians 12:9). “Weakness,” as translated from the original Greek, refers to our inabilities as frail humans, not our wayward desires or tendencies, as some would have us believe.

And then there’s that scary little word: perfect. It isn’t the same as flawless, as we might be tempted to read—and as we often think God expects us to be. Nowhere in the Bible does the idea of perfection, paired with humanity, mean “faultless.” It means “complete.” Truly, “in God we live, move, and exist,” and “without me,” Jesus said, “you can’t do anything” (Acts 17:28; John 15:5). In God we are complete. Lacking nothing. Perfect. Not in spite of our weaknesses, in them. It’s a completion that God breathes into us by divine power.

It’s in our weakness, in our weirdness, that God’s completeness and power exist. When God is in our tendency to overthink, overanalyze, overplan, get too emotionally wrapped up in life, and constantly think about the future (or never think about it), God’s strength shines brightest and purpose unfolds most clearly. The overthinking becomes strategic planning. The worrier’s tendency to stew over eventualities becomes prayer over possibilities. The chatty one becomes the connector in a group or the one who introduces souls to Christ. The one who doesn’t much consider the future becomes the one who reveals to us worrywarts the joy and beauty of this moment.

You see, God doesn’t want to work around you or your quirks. He wants to work through you—through them.

It isn’t a matter of God’s overriding our weaknesses. Instead, God uses our natural design, pouring strength through our quirks.

As this happens, the weird, annoying, frustrating things about us—the things we’ve perhaps seen as problems or struggled against for years—become the window through which the power of God can shine brightest. Not because God removes them or “heals” us from who we are, but because God empowers us to live as who we are, only better, stronger. It’s what a personal trainer would do with one of our weaker muscles: rather than perform a muscle transplant, he would use weights and exercise to show us how that part’s supposed to work.

In the past few years as a life coach, I’ve seen this truth play out in lives again and again. As clients discover God’s strength folded into their weaknesses and quirks

  • marriages are healed and spouses begin to see God’s design in their mates’ infuriating quirks;
  • ministries come to life as people accept who God has made them to be, and they let God’s design make their ministry personal and more effective;
  • parents find new energy, confidence, and efficacy;
  • clients leave jobs that drained them for better ones or re-create current jobs to better complement who they are;
  • organizers discover the peace that comes with keeping their environments— and their thoughts and feelings—arranged in helpful ways;
  • highly responsible people discover how to master this trait instead of letting it master them;
  • worriers invest their anxiety in prayer and see miracles happen;
  • communicators who tend to gossip find ways to spread encouragement and information instead, catalyzing blessing in their neighborhoods.

In every case, clients tell me that one of the biggest wins of our working together is that they can now look in the mirror and recognize the value in their weaknesses and quirks. And that, on a good day, they’re even grateful for them because they’re starting to see God actively at work in their lives in these areas.

These amazing people accomplish all this as they decide to stop fighting the qualities God created in them and instead start asking:

  • If I’m made in your image, God, what aspects of you am I meant to reflect?
  • For what purpose did you make me this way?
  • How do you reveal these attributes—these tendencies that seem weak in me—in a holy, grace-filled way?
  • Would you please fill my weaknesses with your life and power to replace the brokenness and frustration they often bring now?

It can be a scary shift to stop fighting yourself and start following God, not just in spite of but because of a weakness: to start letting God cultivate those traits as the openings for strength they were always meant to be in you. This change in perspective may even feel as if you’re walking straight into darkness and away from all you thought you understood about character. But if you’ve struggled to find the light in an aspect of yourself that’s been tough to understand or manage, perhaps it’s time to try a new approach. After all, “the quickest way for anyone to reach the sun and the light of day is not to run west, chasing after the setting sun, but to head east, plunging into the darkness until one comes to sunrise,” according to Jerry Sittser, coauthor of When Your Rope Breaks. The journey to make sense of and see value in our weirdness begins when we turn to face what we’ve run from for so long—when we let ourselves examine what we’ve begged God to remove from or change in us.

The journey begins when we stop fighting and let God wield his strength through us—to lead us to the sense of purpose we all crave and to His peace that passes understanding. To discover—and fully, joyfully live—the truth that our weirdness, in God’s hands, is wonderful.

Indeed, it’s like seeing that strange, maybe even initially offensive gift peering out from the fresh-opened box in your hands. But getting to know its value? What power this will unleash in your life!

Ready to take the risk to discover the good that’s hiding in those quirks? Let’s start with a quick mental inventory. Which of your quirks do you doubt could ever have a purpose? Consider your closest friends: Which of their quirks irritate you, and how do the quirks affect your relationship? What challenges have your own weirdnesses created in those relationships?

excerpted from: Why Your Weirdness Is Wonderful: Embrace Your Quirks & Live Your Strengths by Laurie Wallin Copyright©2014 by Abingdon Press. Used with permission.

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