One of my favorite books to read to little Bear is Tacky the Penguin.
Tacky is not like any ordinary penguin, though it doesn’t seem to bother him much. He doesn’t march in step, or dive gracefully, or sing pretty songs, or do anything that his companions (Goodly, Lovely, Angel, Neatly, and Perfect) do. He is different; as his name suggests, he is downright tacky.
According to the Oxford Etymological Dictionary, the word tacky actually originated from the term “tackey” which referred to a horse who was “small or inferior;” the Oxford English Dictionary takes this definition a bit further to suggest a horse was “broken down or worthless.” This morphed somehow into a derogatory term directed toward the lower class, and became interchangeable with words like “tasteless,” or “classless.”(Words Gone Wild) Tacky the Penguin is no stranger to the silent eye rolls and judgment of his companions. After all, the bird disrupted their otherwise perfect community.
That’s the thing about being different; in a lot of ways, people who are different challenge the status quo, making it very difficult for life to continue as usual.
I think all of us have a little Tacky that resides somewhere between self-preservation and desire to fit in. We mute our differences to continue to appear normal. And yet, there is something that aches deep in our bellies: a hunger to challenge what is normal in order to make a real difference in the world around us.
I have a dear friend, who, like Tacky, has always marched to the beat of her own drum. She is silly, and vibrant, and full of love for those around her. She has a story that is unlike any of my other friends; a testament of true grace amidst uncertainty. In her early twenties, she seemed to have reached the pinnacle of what every young, Christian girl dreams of: marrying the man of her dreams and beginning a life of ministry together. There was hope and promise in their vows and the first few months they shared together. And yet, within the year, that hope was dashed and their future was cut short. She and her husband divorced, and as you can imagine, my friend was devastated.
I could tell you that she quickly recovered from her broken marriage; but I would be lying. The tacky truth is, she hurt, just as anyone would hurt from the loss of the future she once dreamed of. It can be tricky letting go of the desires of your heart, especially when God promises that if we “take delight in the Lord, he will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4). Her marriage was authentic: solidly grounded in principals of faith. Her fight to preserve her marriage was noble and Godly. The desire of her heart was to keep the marriage together. And still, it dissipated out of the grasp of her fingers and vanished despite her delight in the Lord.
And yet, God also promises in Isaiah 55 that his “thoughts are not our thoughts…(and his ways are) far beyond anything we could imagine.” No one could have predicted what would’ve happened next for my sweet friend, just as no one could’ve predicted what would happen next for Tacky the Penguin.
When hunters come thump, thump, thumping in the land of the pretty penguins, Tacky’s companions hide while Tacky stands firm. He tricks the hunters by being himself, and the other penguins join in a dreadful rendition of “how many toes does a fish have.” The hunters run away from the horrible melody, and Tacky saves his friends. Tacky had a distinct purpose; his differences made him invaluable to his penguin friends.
A few years shy of a decade after her divorce, my friend has found herself unexpectedly in a position of powerful ministry. Although her desire to have a family has not lessened, she has faithfully followed the Father into something completely different and totally fulfilling. God has met her needs in the deepest, most profound way possible. As she nestled herself into a corporate role, my friend was determined not to become complacent. Instead, she leveraged her position to help to launch a program that helps to save women from the sex-trafficking industry and coach them on the road to healing and recovery. By remaining true to her head for the corporate world and her heart for ministry, she is helping women who are broken become whole again. She is Tacky in a land of “Goodly, Lovely, Angel, Neatly, and Perfect.” And the truth is, the world needs a little more Tacky.
Today, I want to encourage you to dig deep…and find your Tacky side. God has uniquely, fearfully, and wonderfully created you to serve a purpose that only you can fulfill. And, as Tacky and my friend soon discovered, that purpose may not look like what we thought it would. God promises us a few things when his plans do not align with our own:
1. Provision. In Matthew 6, we are told not to act like most men do (don’t boast about your giving, be humble, pray in secret). He has instructed us to be like Tacky; be humble and unique and appreciate the fact that “God knows what you need before you ask him.” God made provisions before you even realized there was a need. Like Tacky, you won’t really know why you’ve been created with certain desires or habits or behaviors, but God does. He desires for you to use your quirks and experiences to minister and save your companions.
2. Grace. “From his fullness, we have received grace upon grace.” John 1:16
No matter the state of your life, God will meet you where you are and desires nothing more than your time. He wants your heart; all of it. Even if you feel like your story is too tawdry; your behavior a little too “Tacky,” he created you, and he knows you, and he desires a relationship with you. His grace is sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9), when we are not. God will give you the direction and patience to see your experience create a purpose.
3. Restraint. God promises that if we turn our gaze upward, we will bear the fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5); we will not succumb to the vices that are present in all of our human hearts…that can become road blocks to meaningful relationships and refining purpose. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self control are available to all who will follow the plans that God has for us…no matter what those plans look like.