Marcia Ford’s Memoir of a Misfit

Interview of Marcia Ford by Dick Staub
Well, good afternoon everybody. This is Dick Staub, your friendly guide, thanking you for joining me this afternoon. You know, when I wrote my book, Too Christian, Too Pagan, there were certain people that immediately connected to that phrase. They knew what I meant was that if you truly follow Jesus you’re going to be too Christian for your pagan friends and too pagan for your Christian friends. I had that same kind of experience when I saw the title of our next guest’s book, Memoir of a Misfit. I almost like immediately felt like I understood what-what our guest was talking about. You know, if you’ve had a difficult time finding your place in the family of God, if you have felt like a misfit in the church and in the world and maybe even in your family, if you felt so desperate that you thought you might walk out on God completely, I want you to listen up.
Q. Our next guest has been in and around religious publications for years, she’s
written seven books, but none more honest than the one we’re about to discuss. It’s titled Memoir of a Misfit: Finding My Place in the Family of God. And it’s published by Jossey-Bass. She also has another little book called Meditations for Misfits, so that once you figure out how you’re a misfit, you can actually meditate on it some more. She is Marcia Ford. Marcia, thanks for joining us today.
A. Well, thank you for having me. It’s a pleasure.
Q. We start with you in a hotel room, ready to leave the love of your life,
which by the way this book is just so nicely written that there’s a lot of little entrapments and you find out that the love of her life is actually God and she’s about to leave God. But there’s a whole lot of story that gets us to that hotel room, so I want to start kind of at the beginning. You say at the very outset of this book, from the time you were a little kid people looked at you funny, they always have.
A. Yes.
Q. What’s that all about?
A. Well, as a young child my family seemed to be this cast of cartoon characters.
Q. Yeah.
A. We would 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. Not, you know, eccentric in kind of a highbrow way, and people just always looked at us funny. So I of course as a young child thought, Well, it’s my family’s fault.
Q. Yeah. Yeah, and then you came up with other excuses over time.
A. You bet.
Q. You also-you also talk about fearing God. And it-it’s so interesting to hear
people’s journeys. And that’s one of the things that I like about the-the movement towards telling story and also telling our own stories, is that we-we often assume that our story is-is like that of others but¢â‚¬¦ Because I, from the earliest memories I have of childhood, remember understanding and believing that God loved me. And it’s such an important part of who I am that when I read about somebody who, from the time they were a little kid was afraid of God
A. Uh-huh.
Q. ¢€œit’s fascinating to me. You feared God, you said, since childhood, since you
were in kindergarten.
A. Right.
Q. How did that happen?
A. Well, I think that the-the biggest problem that I had came from a-a very
shallow understanding of what I was hearing every week in church.
Q. Yeah.
A. One of the-the most striking examples of that would be the-the Sunday that I
was sitting in church and the pastor said, Except ye come to me as a little child you shall not enter the kingdom of God.
Q. Yeah.
A. And 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’m old. And I didn’t come to God as a little child. And in the form of baptism. And, therefore, how could I possibly enter the kingdom of God?
Q. So it was just you’re kind of hearing something and applying it in your active
and imaginative way as a child that made you think if I don’t come as a child then it’s too late.
A. Right, exactly. And of course at that time this would have been around 1959,
you couldn’t really talk to anybody about things like that. Or you felt that you couldn’t. At least I felt that way. I couldn’t go to my Sunday school teacher or my mother or anyone else
Q. Yeah.
A. ¢€œand talk to them about those things. I was doomed.
Q. Now, what about VBS? Vacation Bible School?
A. Uh-huh.
Q. What kinds of things had you heard there that made you afraid?
A. Well, I-I remember¢â‚¬¦ Actually, those were good memories. Mostly I
remember the flannel graphs from VBS
Q. Uh-huh.
A. ¢€œand that was a break from our routine. But there was this constant feeling
that if you didn’t measure up in some way, you know, if you didn’t do the right thing, say the right thing¢â‚¬¦ If you didn’t perform all the religious rituals, then you were probably destined for hell.
Q. Yeah, yeah. Yeah, it’s very interesting to think about how kids are
interpreting the things that we’re saying. You then say that you systematically began killing off your grandparents
A. Uh-huh.
Q. ¢€œand were shipped off to Camp Malaga.
A. Uh-huh.
Q. Now, what in the heck are you talking about, systematically killing your
Grandparents? And what happened at the Camp? Or better yet, what happened when you got home from the Camp?
A. Oh, that was great. First of all, with my grandparents, because I-I was
convinced that I was there was just no chance that I would ever, ever get to heaven because I hadn’t been baptized as a little child
Q. Yeah.
A. ¢€œI felt that God was punishing my family by having three of my grandparents
die within a 6-week period
Q. Wow.
A. ¢€œI think it was 6 to 12 weeks, something like that. And my other
grandparent had died years before. But I just¢â‚¬¦ I sat there thinking, Well, there can only be one explanation for this. It’s my fault.
Q. So you literally, you literally thought people were dying because you hadn’t
been baptized as a-as a child.
A. Well, yeah, because I was the center of my universe. So of course I felt that
everything that-that happened in the world I mean the Civil War, come on everything was my fault at some point, you know.
Q. Yeah.
A. So in this case, you know, it was my grandparents dying, you know, within
just a few weeks of each other. It was just¢â‚¬¦ It was just an unbelievable
Q. Wow, interesting.
A. ¢€œtime in my life.
Q. So then your-you-you head off to Camp Malaga.
A. Malaga, yeah.
Q. Malaga. And what happened when you got home?
A. Well, there was a measles outbreak at camp that week, and so we had to leave
camp early. And my family didn’t have a phone, being eccentric. So I couldn’t get in touch with them. And a stranger had to take me home.
Q. Hm.
A. Well, she pulled up to the house, and I just couldn’t wait to get out of her car.
I didn’t, you know, I didn’t know her, didn’t know the other kids in the car, I just wanted to get out and get home.
Q. Yeah.
A. And so I burst through the door and I run into the living room and I’m
standing there. I stop dead in my tracks. I’m in a roomful of strangers and a roomful of strange furniture.
Q. Wow.
A. And it’s my house, but it’s not my people. And I look up and-and someone
looks at me and says, Well, who are you? And I said, Well, I’m-I live here. And she said, No, you don’t. I live here. And so I looked over at the door and I saw my driver standing there with my stuff. And she’s totally confused. She can hear what’s going on because there’s just a screen in the door. And finally they-the people in the house helped me figure out that my family had moved. I was one of the kids in the family that had just moved out of the house. My family had moved and had not told me that they were moving. And so I was¢â‚¬¦
Q. So this is literally the story, my parents moved and didn’t leave a forwarding
address kind of thing.
A. Yes, that’s exactly what happened.
Q. Yeah.
A. They did not tell me they were moving.
Q. And how old were you at the time?
A. I was 10. This was the summer I just turned 10. And I look over at the door
and I see my driver and she is looking at me funny beyond measure.
Q. Yeah.
A. It was probably the first time that I remember anybody looking at me funny
apart from my family. This was¢â‚¬¦
Q. Wow.
A. This was that first moment
Q. Yeah.
A. ¢€œwhen I was not with them and somebody gave me that look.
Q. Yeah.
A. Well, the story turned out okay, I guess. I told the woman to take me to my
father’s store, and he did acknowledge me as his daughter.
Q. Which is a breakthrough.
A. So you know, that was-that was good. And she was out of my life forever, so
that was good, too. But it was quite an experience, you know. You can imagine for a 10-year-old child to-to all of a sudden be uprooted from everything
Q. Yeah.
A. ¢€œthat was familiar to me and not know what the next step was.
Q. And you had no idea they were going to move when you were sent off to
camp.
A. Right, right. As far as I can remember I had no idea. I knew when I stood
there-there in that living room I was totally shocked.
Q. Wow.
A. And again, being 10 years old in 1960 I never really asked my parents why
they didn’t tell me. You know, my kids today would ring me out, you know
Q. Yeah, totally. Things have changed.
A. ¢€œup one side of the house, down the other, you know. But¢â‚¬¦
Well, I’ll tell you what. We’re going to pick up there when we come
back. Our guest is Marcia Ford. Memoir of a Misfit, a lot of funny, tragic, funny, tragic kinds of stuff in this story. We’re going to get to the bottom of it with Marcia Ford, coming up right after this. Again, the book is Memoir of a Misfit. It’s published by Jossey-Bass. There’s also a nice little companion volume called Meditations for Misfits. We’ll be right back. Don’t go away.
(Break.)
Well, this is Dick Staub back with you. Our guest is Marcia Ford. Her book is Memoir of a Misfit: Finding My Place in the Family of God. And I’ve already told her she sounds so much like Frederica Mathewes-Green. And you know, Frederica is on this show fairly regularly. And I’ve got a feeling people are tuning in and saying, Wow, Frederica’s back.
Q. By the way, the-the photo on the cover of the book, a little girl with a little
bag and stuff.
A. Right.
Q. Is that like you? Or-or where’d you get that picture?
A. No. No, it’s not me. And I-I¢â‚¬¦ Jossey-Bass got the picture.
Q. It’s an incredible picture.
A. Yeah, I love the picture. I was so thrilled with that photo because that’s what
I felt like.
Q. Yeah. A little girl with a couple of paper bag a doll and a paper bag
A. Yeah.
Q. ¢€œa sweater that doesn’t fit
A. Exactly.
Q. ¢€œa loosely tied dress, kind of scuffed up shoes, standing in front of a big street
and a big gate by herself.
A. That’s me.
Q. And-and this is the misfit experience that Marcia is talking about. Now
you’re in a new neighborhood. And there’s-there’s kind of a little theme that runs through the book about Catholics and-and what you were thinking about Catholics and Methodists and Baptists and stuff. How-how does that play into your memories as a kid of being a misfit?
A. Yeah. Well, first, I was totally afraid of Catholics. I thought
Q. Really.
A. ¢€œfor sure that¢â‚¬¦ Oh yes, if I walked by a Catholic church¢â‚¬¦
Q. Now, did you get that from your parents? Or from your church? Or¢â‚¬¦
A. No, no. My parents were so cool about religion. Really, they really were.
I have to say that.
Q. Yeah.
A. No, I would say that I just got that from other kids. I was afraid if I walked by
the Catholic church the priest and the nuns would grab me and kidnap me and force me to convert, and all those kind of things.
Q. Wow.
A. And¢â‚¬¦ Yeah. And then finally we moved out of that neighborhood and away
from the Catholic church. So I felt like I was, you know, like finally out of their control or their aura of control. And so we now had to find a new church. We had gone to a Methodist church back where I lived in that other house
Q. Yeah.
A. ¢€œthat now someone else was living in. And we ended up at a Baptist church,
which was fine except for the fact that-that there were two other churches that were closer that I thought would be a whole lot cooler to go to.
Q. Yeah.
A. And the-the-the pastor there at the Baptist church had all these kids. And-and
people would make comments about him like, well, he might as well be Catholic with all those children running around.
Q. Oh, this is so great to¢â‚¬¦ Because you know, you-you forget these stories as
kids and you must have a very good-good memory or very active imagination in taking random tidbits of¢â‚¬¦
A. Exactly.
Q. Well, you-you ironically, though, you meet this girl named Kathy in high
school
A. Right.
Q. ¢€œwho is Catholic, who likes you. And what’s really touching to me about that
story is how odd and unusual it seemed to you that somebody would actually like you.
A. Uh-huh.
Q. Which goes back to this point of misfit. And for people that never quite felt
that out of place, it’s-it’s kind of amazing that you got that far in life before you actually figured that somebody actually liked you.
A. Well, yeah. The difference was that she was cool.
Q. Yeah.
A. You know.
Q. There were people that liked you, but they were like you.
A. Well, in a sense. I never really met anybody that was like me but they weren’t
the cool kids.
Q. Yeah.
A. And Kathy was one of the cool kids.
Q. So what was the significance of that? A cool kid likes you.
A. Oh, my goodness. That-that makes¢â‚¬¦ That changes your life when you’re in
high school.
Q. Yeah.
A. Because all of a sudden now you-you’ve been thinking of yourself as
whatever we called dorks back then
Q. Yeah.
A. ¢€œand all of a sudden here is this girl who’s-who’s cute and popular and fun
and wild and crazy, and all these things
Q. Yeah.
A. ¢€œand she wants to hang out with me.
Q. Yeah.
A. And I’m thinking this is-this is great stuff. You know, she’s going to
introduce me to, you know, a whole new world which she did to some extent.
Q. Yeah.
A. And I went beyond her world, unfortunately, and introduced myself to a lot of
things.
Q. Yeah. Among them was alcohol. And-and you say that you took to alcohol
like a deer pants after the water brooks.
A. Oh, yeah.
Q. Talk about the-the kind of beginnings and origins of what became a lifelong
issue, or at least an issue that was very important and pivotal in your life, alcohol.
A. Well, you see, both of my grandfathers had been alcoholics, and my parents
did not drink and never had alcohol in the house. And it was considered evil and-and that kind of thing. But again, they were, you know, they didn’t push. They were not heavy-handed in their-in their opposition to alcohol. But when I first really started to drink and the first few times I got drunk, I realized I could actually pass off into oblivion
Q. Yeah.
A. ¢€œand that was wonderful. I mean, that just was so great to-to be able to
completely escape reality. That’s what I wanted. I didn’t like my reality at all, and I really, really liked the fact that I could drink and I could forget what happened. And then the next day, if I saw someone who told me what happened I could say, Well, I don’t know what happened. I was out of it.
Q. Yeah.
A. And somehow that excused my behavior.
Q. Now, how common was that among your peers at the time? Because you and I
are contemporaries pretty much age wise, and my recollection is that in high school in those days, there was still a stigma attached to-to kind of getting drunk.
A. Oh, yeah, there was. It just depended on the group of kids that you hung out
with. And I was hanging around with a lot of older, like college-age kids at that time. So I think I was experiencing things that a lot of my-kids my own age
Q. Yeah.
A. ¢€œand my own grade level were not experiencing.
Q. Yeah.
A. And so yeah, there was a stigma attached to it. People¢â‚¬¦ If I thought people
looked at me funny before that period in my life, I didn’t know what I was talking about. Because they really started to look at me funny.
Q. And why was that?
A. Because they-they could see that I was just completely out of control. When
I-when I started drinking, I drank. I mean, I don’t mean that I got drunk on Saturday nights, I mean I drank every single possible moment that I could.
Q. Now, and what did your parents think about all that?
A. My parents, I think, were-were either unaware, because they would go to bed
early. I’d come in late.
Q. Yeah, yeah.
A. Or there were times when I think my parents had more wisdom than I give
them credit for. I think that maybe they thought this is a phase that will pass. If we don’t come down hard on her
Q. Yeah.
A. ¢€œthen she’ll straighten out eventually.
Q. Now, what is happening to your church life during the heavy drinking phase
of high school?
A. There’s no church life. I left church when I was 12.
Q. Yeah?
A. Yeah. I decided organized religion was not for me so I just walked away from
It. And-and I had no idea really what that would cost me.
Q. Any-any kids trying to rope you back in?
A. No.
Q. Any people in your life that are trying to make an influence on you?
A. I can’t remember any.
Q. So you’re basically now, you’re-you’re kind of on the wrong road, the road to
perdition
A. Yes.
Q. ¢€œand a lot of people helping you and not very many people trying to stop you.
A. Right.
Q. Okay. So now¢â‚¬¦ And of course, in that state of mind you’re making some
very important life decisions.
A. Oh, yeah.
Q. Like where am I going to college? And-and talk about the decision you made
about college.
A. Oh, that was a great decision. I was-I was all set to go to this college called
Middlebury in Vermont.
Q. Yeah.
A. It was this very, very wonderful school that-that had a terrific foreign
language program. And I was very good at foreign languages. And I thought, well this is where I want to go. And then I read the fine print in the catalog and started looking at the pictures in the catalog. And I thought, Well, okay, these are rich kids from very wealthy families and there is no way I’ll fit in here. So the worst thing that I could possibly imagine was actually being accepted at Middlebury
Q. Yeah.
A. ¢€œbecause then I’d have to go there and face rejection.
Q. Yeah.
A. So I just scrapped that idea. And then I ended up going to a school where,
surprise, surprise, my boyfriend went.
Q. Yeah.
A. And pretty much I based my college decision on his, you know, his
recommendation, his influence. They did offer me a full scholarship.
Q. Because you’d been getting good grades even though you were drinking
heavily.
A. Oh, absolutely.
Q. Which is one of the, you know, one of the great tragedies today, even more so
than then, because the drinking problem is more profound and common among-among high school kids today. As a lot of kids are fairly high performers even though their, you know, their life is unraveling personally. And-and so you can mask it. And that’s what happened in your case.
A. That would be right.
Well, we’re going to pick up there when we come back. Our guest, if
you’re just joining us, is Marcia Ford. The book is Memoir of a Misfit: Finding My Place in the Family of God. This is a chance for you to sit back, hear somebody else’s story, find those points of resonance, find those points of difference, and-and see how it relates to your place in the family of God. We’re going to be back with more of Marcia Ford. The book is published by Jossey-Bass. Don’t go away. We’ll be right back.
(Break.)
Well, this is Dick Staub back with you. You know, the good news is our guest Marcia Ford is describing what it felt like to be a misfit. And that’s pretty much the only kind of person that-that God made. But each of us have to really kind of come to that realization ourselves. And the wonderful thing is that’s pretty much because that’s the only ones he made, the ones that he loves. And, you know, definitely easy to see in the gospels that Jesus was after people who color outside the lines, and that’s pretty much-pretty much the story that we’re hearing. And a lot of you can connect to this regardless of whether the details of your story are the same or not. Ultimately, we all come to the place where we realize that there are ways that we don’t fit and there are reasons we don’t fit, and some of it has to do with our-our own bentness and-and-and the-the stubbornness with which and tenacity with which we pursue our wrongheadedness.
Q. And-and so now we’ve got good old Marcia is off at college. And-and now
what’s interesting about this phase of your life is that there’s kind of best of times/worst of times in the sense that continued degradation, but there are little incidents where God begins to show up in your life. And so you’ve got this yin/yang thing happening here.
A. Uh-huh.
Q. Talk about that.
A. That’s exactly right. I had gotten into drugs and I was living a pretty
promiscuous lifestyle. And yet every now and then things would happen that-that would indicate to me that God really was still around and really was interested in me.
Q. Yeah.
A. One was a situation that occurred as I was crossing campus one night. It
actually reminded me of-of¢â‚¬¦ I just had this kind of image of myself as a younger and purer person. And I got this impression, this very, very strong impression that God would restore me to that condition. That he was calling me back to himself.
Q. Wow, yeah.
A. And it was a profound experience. And so I acted on it. I thought, okay,
okay, let’s go with this, because I really hate what I’m doing, I hate the way I’m living. So I traveled a thousand miles to get some help from someone that I thought could help me.
Q. Someone that was you viewed as a spiritual person.
A. Oh, yes, yes. Absolutely. This was someone who-who I knew had an
understanding of had the same understanding of God that I had grown up with.
Q. Okay.
A. And so I went to see him, not telling him why I was there. And he tried to
lure me into bed.
Q. This is a really, really profound story because you wonder how often that
happens
A. Yeah.
Q. ¢€œwhere some poor, young hapless college student, female college student, goes
to a-to a-an older, wiser Christian man seeking counsel and he either misinterprets or-or actually is-is kind of aggressive in his pursuit of-of an opportunity not to be part of the solution of the person’s life, but a perpetuation of their problem.
A. Uh-huh, exactly.
Q. Which is exactly what happened in this situation. Because now there’s even
more disillusionment.
A. Uh-huh. See, all my life I’ve-I’ve, instead of blaming the people who did
things to me
Q. Yeah.
A. ¢€œI always thought that-that God was responsible. I thought, Why did God
allow that to happen?
Q. Well, you had Ian, too. Ian, the guy that you fell in love with and then, boom.
A. Yeah, and then he was killed. And I just thought, you know, how on earth am
I does God expect me to make it through life without this man? You know, without Ian?
Q. Well, and you were also going through the ideological stuff. And again, man,
I can just so remember this stuff, these phases. Existentialism, probably reading a lot of Sartre and Camus and-and kind of gravitating towards Marxism. You got into Satanic rock music, which some people really don’t believe even existed. But-but you kind of got into that. And it was very depressing. The-the impact of these philosophical and intellectual pursuits, along with the death of Ian, and along with drugs and along with alcohol and along with disillusionment of this older guy, you-you’re thinking about killing yourself now. You’re not¢â‚¬¦ This is not going well.
A. Right, right.
Q. In the middle of that you go on a ski weekend.
A. Uh-huh.
Q. And it turns out God lives behind a store at the dumpster, which is incredible
news. So-so tell me about that.
A. Oh, that was the most wonderful experience. It-it changed my life in one
respect. And that was that I was able to give up drugs as a result of that experience. I just¢â‚¬¦ The weekend had been horrible, horrible, just the worst treatment I’d ever gotten from friends.
Q. Yeah.
A. And my friends had gone in the store, and I just went around to the back
because I wasn’t feeling well and I wanted to get some fresh air by the dumpster. And-and I just stood there. And as I looked out over the mountains in Vermont, I just-I had this experience of God that I just could not possibly explain. I mean, I did not manufacture it, I wasn’t thinking about God
Q. Yeah.
A. ¢€œI was not thinking about anything about faith or Jesus or anything. I was
feeling crummy.
Q. Yeah.
A. I was sick and-and discouraged with my friends. And I was standing out there
and I just felt reality just fall away.
Q. Yeah.
A. The-the cars weren’t there anymore, the-the road wasn’t there, the store
wasn’t there. It was just God and me in this incredibly beautiful, in these incredibly beautiful surroundings. And I knew, I knew that He was real. And I knew that He was still interested in me. And this was after that experience with the older man where I had felt, you know
Q. Wow.
A. ¢€œGod literally turn his back on me.
Q. Yeah.
A. So at that moment I thought, If I can feel this great when I’m straight, why am
I bothering with drugs?
Q. Yeah.
A. And I never did them again.
Q. That’s-that’s wonderful.
A. Yeah.
Q. Now, Glen the Christian, invites you to a-to a-an event. And a guy rides in on
a motorcycle from New Jersey and-and says some words that, even though now that you’ve been around for awhile you realize are not-are not uncommon words, but for whatever reason, they were the arrow that just pierced your heart.
A. Uh-huh, uh-huh. That was-that was an incredible experience, again, because it
was a Friday night. I never would have gone to this Bible study thing that-that my friends were involved in, but I didn’t have a date. And so I thought, Well, you know, I’ll go to this Bible study. At least it’s better than sitting home on a Friday night.
Q. Yeah.
A. So I was sitting there at this place just really feeling awful like, you know, I
didn’t belong there, I didn’t fit in, obviously. There were all these Christians around who were just so phony and plastic and all of that. And this-this biker/professor said at some point during his talk he said, God not only forgave your sins he forgot them.
Q. Hm.
A. Now, why those words penetrated my spirit the way they did, why they
pierced my soul the way they did that night at that time under those circumstances, I have no idea.
Q. Yeah.
A. All I know is that was the deciding moment, that was the defining moment in
my life.
Q. And-and at that point you basically are experiencing a conversion because
you’re now on a different path, you-you’re heading towards God instead away from God.
A. Absolutely.
Q. And-and you do make the¢â‚¬¦ The route takes you through the church, which
begins your journey having now discovered that you were not made for this world, beginning to realize you also did not appear to be made for this church.
A. No.
Q. So that the experience of feeling like a misfit in life is-is now compounded by
the fact that you’re a spiritual misfit
A. Absolutely.
Q. ¢€œbecause now you-now you don’t totally fit with the culture anymore, but
you’re also in church situations and-and you go through a few of them where this is not fitting either.
A. No, it isn’t.
Q. Why is this woman laughing?
A. You know, if I couldn’t laugh through all of this, how could I possibly survive
it?
Q. Yeah.
A. You know, I can look back on it now and laugh, but I wasn’t laughing at the
time.
Q. Yeah.
A. When I first got saved I was-I was just the happiest person on earth. And then
I was like the blind man in Mark 8 who-who looked up and said to Jesus, I see men but they’re like trees walking around. So my vision was blurry.
Q. Yeah.
A. And then finally my vision cleared, and apparently the blind man had a better
experience than I had because when my vision cleared I saw people looking at me funny. And these were my brothers and sisters in Christ. And here I was¢â‚¬¦
Q. I’m sorry for laughing, but I’ve been there.
We’ll take a quick break. We’ll be back with sadly some concluding
comments. Sadly in the sense that I know you’d like to spend more time with Marcia. But the good news is you can by picking up a copy of her book, Memoir of a Misfit: Finding My Place in the Family of God. Jossey-Bass is the publisher. Also she’s got Meditations for Misfits. We’ll be back with a little bit more of the story right after this.
(Break.)
Well, this is Dick Staub back with you. We’re visiting with Marcia Ford. She is author of Memoir of a Misfit: Finding My Place in the Family of God. A wonderful, wonderful introduction by Phyllis Tickle, who is a friend of mine as well, the former religion editor of Publishers Weekly, who lives at The Farm in Lucy, wherever that is.
Q. Anyway, we were talking with Marcia about her long journey towards the
family of God, and then her arrival in the family only to realize that this is another family where people are looking at her a little funny, as well. She makes¢â‚¬¦ You make some kind of early mistakes the-the-the¢â‚¬¦ One of the down sides of the process of reformation, you learn the early tricks of twisting scripture to get your own way.
A. Uh-huh.
Q. So you end up marrying a wrong guy
A. Right.
Q. ¢€œwho had a British accent and was undoubtedly witty and all that kind of
stuff.
A. Oh yeah, oh yeah.
Q. But this, of course, is a mistake and this-this drives you deeper into the misfit
subculture of the church because now you’re divorced.
A. Uh-huh.
Q. You get into the shepherding movement, which a lot of people don’t really
know that much about. And I would like you to just talk a bit about-about the kind of style of Christianity that you’re gravitating into now because you’ve got the shepherding movement, you’ve got an emphasis on demons, you’ve got a kind of a health/wealth theology. There’s a lot of pieces coming together here that are-are creating some new dissonances for you.
A. Uh-huh. I would say that-that the¢â‚¬¦ With the shepherding movement, the
biggest problem I had with it was the element of control.
Q. Yeah. And for people that don’t know what it is, what is it?
A. Okay. This was a movement that was started by five pastors out of Fort
Lauderdale, and they started to influence a number of churches throughout the country. This was a kind of a way of organizing faith around a lifestyle that involved control by the church.
Q. Yeah, which they would refer to as accountability.
A. Right, exactly. The accountability is what they would have called it. And
there was a chain of command.
Q. Yeah.
A. And you had to follow this specific chain of command if there was a problem,
and that sort of thing.
Q. Yeah.
A. And it got to the point where the church got its fingers into every little area of
a person’s life, at times coming between husband and wife
Q. Yeah.
A. ¢€œand trying to with the whole idea of the husband being the priest of the
household. That was such a big deal.
Q. Right.
A. And-and maybe couples had organized their lives in a way where, okay, the
husband was the priest of the household, but that didn’t mean that the woman, you know, couldn’t take an active part in-in their spiritual life and that she couldn’t have some authority, too. And so they would often identify women who had some measure of spiritual authority as Jezebels. If we went to the pastor or went to someone in leadership, if any of the women did that, went to someone in the leadership about a problem in the church well we were Jezebels.
Q. Yeah, yeah. So you start kind of gravitating into the bad category in this
regard as well.
A. Oh yeah, absolutely.
Q. You face in a-in a health/wealth environment in, you know, God’s going to
heal environment, due to a transfusion you had, your daughter Elizabeth contracts the HIV virus.
A. No. No, no, no. That’s not what happened.
Q. What was that?
A. No. We were afraid that that was what was going to happen.
Q. Oh.
A. No, that was just simply a fear that I had during that time.
Q. Okay.
A. But I¢â‚¬¦ It seemed as if I would not get pregnant again. That was
Q. Gotcha.
A. ¢€œan issue. And we didn’t know if that was caused by the transfusion or what.
Yeah, there was the AIDs scare for awhile, but that passed.
Q. Okay.
A. But there was the infertility issue for another four or five years. And here I
was in this environment that stressed so much health and wealth, and it seemed like I was infertile. And that was, you know, unheard of. And I only had one child and-and, you know, certainly in the church you had to have 2.5 at least.
Q. Yeah.
A. And then there was the whole wealth issue. And now I had left work when
Elizabeth was born and I stayed home with her, so that made us decidedly unwealthy. And so, you know, we were¢â‚¬¦ There was sin in our-in our-in the Ford camp, and we were unhealthy and unwealthy.
Q. Yeah. So you’re experiencing a lot of exclusionary feelings and experiences
and-and-and we end up now moving towards the hotel room
A. Oh yeah.
Q. ¢€œwhere you’re ready to leave the love of your life. Now-now, when does the
Sheila Walsh story connect with this?
A. That was actually about a month later.
Q. You-you¢â‚¬¦
A. That was a month later.
Q. A month after your¢â‚¬¦
A. Right.
Q. First of all, you didn’t take your own life and you didn’t totally leave God
A. Right.
Q. ¢€œthe-the weekend in that hotel room.
A. Uh-huh.
Q. But that was also the result of some rejection.
A. Uh-huh.
Q. The night before one of your friends was, you know, you were feeling that
you’d connected with what happened that night, and suddenly that friend is whisked off by some of her friends and you’re left there by yourself.
A. Right, exactly.
Q. But Sheila Walsh now writes her wonderful book¢â‚¬¦ Well, you talk about it.
A. Yeah. That night in the hotel room I had-I had really felt that I had come to
the end of any relationship on earth with God, and I would see him in heaven and that was it. And you know, we would kind of just go our separate ways as long as I was still on earth. About a month later I had been working for Charisma magazine at the time, and we had decided to do a story on depression.
Q. Yeah.
A. And one of¢â‚¬¦ Sheila had written her book, Honestly, at that point, and it dealt
with her serious bout with depression.
Q. Yeah.
A. So we decided, Okay, I’ll interview her, too. And she was going to be in
Florida. So on the way to meet her for the interview I listened to her book on tape. And on the way there I had to pull over several times because I was crying so hard
Q. Right.
A. ¢€œbecause I recognized myself in Sheila’s story, though our stories were so different.
Q. Yeah.
A. I realized I was suffering from depression and that was a very, very difficult thing for me to admit.
Q. Yeah.
A. I should have known it years before.
Q. Yeah.
A. But I was a Christian, I worked for a Christian company, I went to this
Q. Yeah, exactly.
A. ¢€œyou know, this vibrant church and all this kind of stuff. How could I suffer from depression? This is impossible. But she, you know, on her tape she said the words, I never knew God lived so close to the floor. And I thought about that night at the Radisson a month earlier, when I was sitting on the floor and I just thought, Could God have been there with me? And at that moment I thought, No, he wasn’t. No, no, no, no. And I kind of denied it. But eventually I came around to the understanding that I was indeed suffering from a serious, serious bout with depression.
Q. Well, and this is a really important part of the story which unfortunately we don’t have enough time to really go into, but part of that was coming to grips with telling people in your church, telling other people. Your husband, John, was very supportive through all of this.
A. Extremely.
Q. And-and folks, again, you can read more in Finding My Place in the Family of God. And I think this is really important because I think there are a lot of people that are suffering from depression and could get help. I mean, a pastor said some magic words, Have you called your doctor?
A. Right, exactly. Exactly.
Q. Instead of saying, you know, have you prayed for healing he said, Have you called your doctor, which is-was a liberating phrase in itself.
A. Yes, definitely.
Q. And I want to-I’d love to spend more time in that. But I want to make sure we also get in the fact that you did find yourself gravitating towards a church expression through a retreat that brought some things together for you as well.
A. Uh-huh, exactly. It was a liturgical church. I’m part of the Episcopal Church now, but I really don’t want to make people think that I think that’s the answer. That was my answer.
Q. Yeah.
A. Because it resonated with me. The whole idea of a Holy God and the whole idea of a Christ-centered worship where the focus is entirely on Jesus, which a lot of people who-who maybe have not had that experience or have had bad experiences with liturgy
Q. Right.
A. ¢€œmay not understand.
Q. But it’s not personality-based, which is the problem with so much of church these days.
A. Exactly, yes, yes. Exactly, that’s it. And it’s not performance-driven.
Q. So now, here we are out of time, we’re going to tell people to-to spend more time with Marcia Ford through picking up a copy of Memoir of a Misfit. But in-in 30 seconds, what’s the moral of the story?
A. The moral of the story is that misfits have hope, that-that 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. And that they can embrace and enjoy who they are, with all their eccentricities and quirkiness intact.
Q. There’s hope
A. Yes.
Q. ¢€œfor each of you who are feeling out of sorts or out of kilter with either the church or the world or both, or with God, that there is hope and that’s the message of the book, Memoir of a Misfit: Finding My Place in the Family of God. And, of course, I know Marcia’s prayer would be, as is mine, that each of you would find your place in the family of God as well. It’s a really interesting read. Also there’s the book Meditations of a Misfit. Thanks for being with us, Marcia.
Folks, we’ll be back with more right after this. Don’t go away.

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