The Island of Misfit Toys

David Burchett
David Burchett
2011 8 Dec

Christmas really is the most wonderful time of the year. I love the music, the memories, the traditions and the chance to annually think about Burl Ives. His memory came back again with the annual airing of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. That show first aired in 1964 and it has been a staple ever since. Ives is the voice of Sam the Snowman who narrates the “enhanced” story of Rudolph.

Rudolph and his elf buddy Hermey don’t fit in with the others. Rudolph looks different than the others. Hermey is not interested in making toys. In an odd plot twist, Hermey wants to be a dentist. Not surprisingly, his elf supervisor is upset with the unproductive Hermey. So the two outcasts set off to find their fame and fortune.

The part of the story that resonates with me these days is when Hermey and Rudolph find their way to the Island of Misfit Toys. All of the toys on this island are castoffs because they are flawed or different. There is a “Charlie in the Box” and a train with square wheels. A boat that sinks in water and a squirt gun that shoots jelly. All of these flawed toys are banished to the Island of Misfit Toys.

That is how I picture so many sad and tired church-goers. They see themselves as misfits. They believe they are flawed and not worth much of anything. They have allowed a perceived idea of what a “good” Christian should look like to cause them to feel like they don’t measure up. The doubts overwhelm them.  Discouraged followers of Christ start thinking thoughts like these.

I don’t have theological training.
I can’t sing well.
I am not a good teacher.
I am afraid to share my faith.
I feel awkward in groups.
I am not a leader.
I don’t have much to offer.

But that is not how the Bible describes a follower of Christ. Every Christian is described as being part of the body of Christ. Scripture makes it clear that every part of the body of Christ is vital to the healthy function of the church.

I was reminded how might look in practice when I attended a Christmas concert featuring Christian artist Michael W.Smith. Michael has more musical talent in one finger than I have in my entire body. And I confess that I entertained a bit of envy in the early part of the concert. I always wanted to be a musician but I never was willing to commit to that whole practice and hard work thing. And that seemed to slow my progress as a musical talent. Right after I moved past my talent deficit envy I happened to notice (really notice) something that happens at every concert and stage event. At the end of a stirring song a stagehand quietly and efficiently moved onto the stage, set up two microphones and left without fanfare.

And it occurred to me that his small role in this gigantic production was enormously important. The next event was Smith reading the Christmas account from Scripture as a musician accompanied his narration. Because of the unnoticed stagehand the transition was seamless and the effect was powerful. No one applauded the stagehand. He might have felt unappreciated. He might have envied the acclaim that Michael W.Smith receives. He might have noticed that the audience applauded the arrival of the first chair violinist and the conductor. He might have wished for the rousing applause reserved for the other vocalists and the instrumental soloists.

But I kept thinking about the stagehand who carefully set the microphones in exactly the right place. I thought about the dozens of unseen technicians that made a magical evening of music happen. Incredibly vital people who did their jobs without a single moment of public adoration. And I think that is what Paul is saying when he talks about how the body of Christ should function. God always sees the stagehand that humbly does his part. God values the technician who makes the music happen without personal recognition. I believe that God would view that stagehand’s seemingly insignificant contribution as being every bit as important as the people in the spotlight when that small role is offered with worship.

In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians he wrote about the distribution of spiritual gifts.

But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it. How strange a body would be if it had only one part! Yes, there are many parts, but only one body. The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.”  In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary.

I realize that I am prone to say it is all about Him and then get upset if no one notices me. So who is it really all about? If my service is for Him I am confident that God takes note. Should it really matter if anyone else does? I am the first to confess that such notice is nice and appreciated. But should it really matter?

If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad. All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it.

I am not always glad when another part of the body is honored. How quickly I forget the unmerited gift of grace. If we really comprehended what that meant would we ever question what is in it for me? It is so obvious that I have been given so many gifts of grace whether I gain kudos or not. As I meditate on that today I pray that I will choose to praise God and be content even if He asks me to be the anonymous stagehand that no one ever applauds. My part (and yours) is vital even if it seems no one notices. The truth is that the most important observer does notice. Everyone of us has a purpose that we were created to fulfill. So if you are feeling like a misfit toy this Christmas season you can trust this truth. You are a child of God. You are a saint and you have a new identity rooted in Christ Himself.

God does not create misfits. He creates people in His image with value and great worth. Satan would like you to retreat to your own island of misfits to feel sad and worthless. But God has another gathering place in mind. The Island of Grace. On that island you are not a misfit. You are a beloved child of God. You are a saint. And in this wonderful place there are no misfits. Paul made that abundantly clear with these words of encouragement to the Church in Rome.

So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God. (Romans 5, NLT)