I think I fell in love with the cover first. Twenty-six black birds perched on wires and one lone red bird standing apart from them, head tilted in their direction.
Michelle DeRusha’s Spiritual Misfit: A Memoir of Uneasy Faith is such a welcoming book, just like Michelle herself. She felt like that red bird, an outsider. But the genius of the memoir is that I have felt like that red bird, too, all by my lonesome. Perhaps we’ve all felt that way.
I cried at the dedication page.
“And in memory of Janice ‘Haukebo’ Johnson. Your light shone. (Matthew 5:14-16)” Janice Johnson was Michelle’s mother-in-law, who died in 2011. Janice’s death hit Michelle hard. She wrote about it and lost a few blog subscribers along the way, but she earned my unending loyalty. As someone who had already lost her mother, I felt like another bird came and sat next to me on my section of wire, where I’d felt so alone.
Although Michelle’s faith journey and mine are different, they both include a fair amount of uneasiness. The day I read her book was the kind of day where laughter doesn’t readily come. She did, however, manage to make me smile.
And feel genuinely moved, especially in the chapter “Surrendering the Fear,” in which she writes about her son Noah who asked Santa for the book Designing With Succulents.
“I turned preposterous theories like these around and around for a few hours before a profound revelation hit me: Below my yearning for my son to be ‘normal,’ lay something deeper; I was afraid of what I could not control,” Michelle writes.
Amen! Yet another area in which Michelle and I have both felt like outsiders — loss of control regarding our children. This post is running the day before my son’s birthday. He’s at the age when everyone feels like a misfit. He’s making his own choices about what to study and how to spend a free Friday night and what to believe. I can fuss and fret myself into a windstorm over all that, or I can turn to the verse that sustained Michelle, Psalm 46:10: “Be still and know that I am God.”
That’s the arc of her story: from stealing to stillness. (Stillness on a plane, no less!)
“I have a God who guides me over the most formidable peaks and into the most tranquil valleys,” Michelle writes. Her God is the one who cares for birds, after all.
Matthew 13:31-32 says, “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.”
Michelle’s uneasy faith started as a small mustard seed, but it’s grown. Maybe it’s a new breed of succulent, one with room for all of us misfitty birds to come and perch.
Megan Willome is the managing editor of the WACOAN magazine. Her forthcoming book The Joy of Poetry will be released by T.S. Poetry Press in 2015. She blogs at meganwillome.com, always with a cup of tea in hand.
Click here to purchase Spiritual Misfit: A Memoir of Uneasy Faith.