I got rejected this week.
It was an article, a story I was a really proud of, submitted to a prestigious magazine where a couple of my friends have been published recently. I’d polished the prose, even had someone look it over before I sent it in, only to receive a not-unfamiliar response.
“Thank you for your submission but…”
Pricks of disappointment coupled with waves of insecurity began to wash over me. It’s hard not to take it personally, to see someone else’s lack of need or interest in your gifts as a statement of your value. My instinct is to self-criticize, picking myself apart and looking for weaknesses. And while a healthy amount of reflection is reasonable, cruising on the “I’m-so-lame” train doesn’t help anyone.
I didn’t know this when I was younger. In my teens and twenties I let rejection tell untrue stories about me. After finding out that I wasn’t invited to a party or that I hadn’t gotten into to a program I was excited about, I would wallow, sometimes for weeks, in “Why (not) me’s?” and “They’re the ones missing out.” and “Maybe I’m not good enough’s…”
Oh man. So much missing the point.
The truth is if you want to be a person who accomplishes anything that matters, you have to take risks. Risks inevitably open up the possibility of failure and rejection. And when we find ourselves rejected, left out, looked over, wallowing is a waste. Those are moments instead to start anew, try again, finding new opportunities to use our gifts for God’s glory.
We have a great example in Jesus, who Peter described as “rejected by men but chosen in the sight of God.” Jesus was left out, despised, misunderstood by so many, but instead of holding onto that reality He clung to His identity as God’s beloved son. His focus was always on His mission, telling the truth about God everywhere He went. This is our model, living out our callings as beloved children of God, even when we find ourselves excluded from places we really want to belong.
It’s a lesson I keep learning.
When this summer I was passed over for a leadership position in a community group I’m involved with –
As I find myself adding another rejection letter to my file.
After Facebook shows me I wasn’t invited to a friend’s party.
Even though it feels personal, rejection is usually situational. It’s about timing, space and compatibility, it doesn’t speak to who we fundamentally are. The truest thing about us is that we are created and welcomed and wanted by a loving God. A God, who through Jesus, initiates a new kingdom where there is work to be done and not a lot of room for wallowing.
In my writing, my participation in local organizations, my friendships, my hope is to glorify the God who made me and gifted me with words and skills and relationships. I want to follow the kingdom way of Jesus, who encouraged his disciples to face rejection by shaking the dust off their feet and moving on toward new places of ministry and influence.
As I shake the dust off here in my corner of the kingdom, I’m remembering again that when following Jesus, rejection is never the end of the story.