Recently I walked through our local Wal-Mart and felt the sting of undeniable rejection from someone who used to be a friend. It was painful. Kind of like an ant bite to your soul, it burns, then leaves a whelp and keeps you up itching throughout the night. Momma used to recommend ammonia to take the sting out of a bite, too bad there’s no ammonia for the soul.
My normal response to this type of Wal Mart encounter was to walk my mind down a familiar road into self-loathing and eventually end up drowning my sorrows in a bag of Reece’s Pieces. I would start by convincing myself I wasn’t worth friending and finish by reliving every stupid thing I’d ever done in living color. Then I would agree with any problem they found in me, and, trust me, there are plenty to find, and offer to stand alongside them (hypothetically speaking) and throw stones at my self-esteem.
Then I would spend the next few hours lamenting and wishing I was a better person.
That used to be such an easy trap for my mind, I believed every lie the enemy threw at me. Lies I often did not recognize as false because they camouflaged themselves as a dirty look or negative word spoken at a vulnerable moment. Or by being ignored when you desperately want to be heard or finding out you’ve been talked about unfavorably by someone you trusted. Or maybe it’s not being invited to an event or wishing you felt more like a part of the group. I could go on, but you get the idea.
Rejection is the worst.
But, this Wal-Mart day was different.
This day, unlike so many others, I actually recognized the lie and called it out for what it was. And then with a prayer on my lips, I walked right onto the health and beauty aisle to pick up my mascara. There was still a sting, but, only slight. The whole idea of someone not liking me or being misunderstood used to tear me up on a thousand levels. But, because the Lord is growing me up in this area, I’m slowly finding the freedom I need to be myself; even when “myself” is not popular.
This newly found freedom from the heavy yoke of popular opinion did not happened overnight; as a matter of fact, it has taken my whole life to learn this lesson.
Here in the up and down days of my mid-life crisis, I’m discovering self-assurance. This assurance is rooted in finding peace with who I am, and watered by forty something years of experience that’s taught me there’s no such thing as perfect.
I’ve learned to appreciate who God made me to be, as my daddy would say, “flaws and all.”
It’s taken a very painful season to shove me into a place of dealing with my response to rejection. It’s painful enough when it happens, why spend time thinking about it? Just shove it down deep and move on, that was my philosophy. I wish I was one of those people who loved looking deep within my psyche to find why I behave the way I do. I guess if I was one of those “deeper souls” it wouldn’t have taken my entire life to understand how much I needed to change.
Not to change so I might “fit in,” rather to learn how to reject rejection.
I am a little different than most. Some call it unique, others don’t call. (I know, totally cheesy, but I couldn’t resist!)
I remember a few years ago wanting so badly to be a part of a ladies group that met frequently in our small town. This is an invite only type of deal and I was told my name had been mentioned as a potential member only to find out later, I didn’t make the cut.
Ah, the sharp sting of rejection.
I was so sad and hurt.
I remember my husband being so sweet to me. You know the person who tells you, “You don’t need such-and-such anyway. It’s their loss.” Well, he’s that guy. He listened to me talk about how I was such a reject and how pathetic I was until I feel sure he wanted to run. But, thankfully, he prayed for me instead.
Why is it, the “friend” grass always looks greener on the other side?
Why does it look like everybody has the best life and the best relationships except you?
I look back now and I realize I was trying hard to belong to a group I was never meant to be in. If I had been accepted “in” I may never have dealt with what it felt like to be “out.” And “out” is where the rejection lived. “Out” is where I needed to be so I could start getting better. And by better I mean finding wholeness—being well.
Recently I read a devotional I haven’t been able to shake. It talked about turning opposition into opportunity. Honestly, this whole idea does not appeal to me. I want to live opposition free, I don’t like hard things and I don’t like dealing with difficulty. But, I do long to be healthy way down deep, so I read and re-read the devotion.
It is so easy for me to read something powerful like this and vow to change, to try and view difficulty as a chance to grow and learn. I declare I am a willing vessel for God to use in the life of another, even if it means getting hurt in the process. But, then I stand there in real life walking through Wal-Mart being ignored, feeling small and unloved, and I am tempted to duck into the pharmacy section to hide.
The fiction of my vowed devotion fades quickly in the face of reality.
Okay, so in keeping with my desire to be fully transparent…I don’t want this kind of opportunity, you know? I want to be included, noticed, loved, accepted, appreciated and affirmed without any strings of hardship attached.
I want easy.
God wants what’s best.
And there’s the rub.
Since we live in a world of insecurities and competition we will never be able to escape the pain of rejection. And since God’s best involves facing the pain head on and not hiding in the pharmacy section, I find myself with “opportunities” that push me into maturity.
I wish I could just buy maturity in a tube right by the toothpaste, it would be so much easier.
Again, I want easy and God wants…you get it.
So, on this particular day, after I picked up my mascara, I spun my cart around headed for the grocery section. Well, I sort of spun my cart, it had a damaged front wheel so it was more of a desperate dragging, not nearly as savvy sounding as a good spin. But, that didn’t stop me. As I headed back to frozen foods, I continued to pray, think of God’s Word and remind myself I was loved, and you know what?
No, it did not take the sting of rejection away immediately, but it did keep it from leaving a whelp. I guess you could say, I took my momma’s advice.
I put “ammonia” (the medicine of God’s word and prayer) on the bite of rejection and the sting wore off.
And, amazingly, it didn’t itch later.
“As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him…”
1 Peter 2:4