My mouth was dry. My hands a bit numb. There was a stabbing tightness in my chest. My mind blurred as my thoughts became a fragmented kaleidoscope of a million pictured hopes I thought were just around the corner for me. For us. For the us that was now becoming just me again.
We were only dating. But my mind had already run ahead in time and built a life with this man. In the future we had romantic picnics to take, snowball fights to laugh through, a wedding to plan, a house to build, and kids to name who had his smile and my eyes.
I’m not sure these were ever real to him. But to me, they were as real as the stone-cold coffee now sitting in front of me. The one I kept stirring to have something to focus on but that I never intended to drink. Drinking coffee seemed a bit too normal of an activity to participate in when my entire inner life had just been declared a state of emergency. Because all of a sudden, the rest of my planned-out life was aflame. I wasn’t just losing a boyfriend today. I was losing the connection to all those dreams for tomorrow that now would never be.
His words were making their way through my ears to my heart. I felt the full impact of their harsh landing. As they skidded their way across the most tender places inside me, their piercing weight burned and cut and ripped apart what I thought would be so very permanent. Rejection always leaves the deepest, darkest marks.
That was decades ago. But I can pull up the memory of it as if it were yesterday. I have to search around a bit in my past, but there it is. The wound isn’t pulsing with pain any longer. It’s more of a scar. Like a war wound, it’s just a story now.
I pulled out my journal today and tried to capture the raw essence of what makes rejection so awful. But in the end I couldn’t capture the depth of it with finely crafted words. Instead of diving deep with my thoughts, I let them come in simple, personal phrases.
I like stability.
I don’t like getting caught off guard.
I like feeling known.
I don’t like feeling thrown away.
As I kept making this list, one line finally emerged that seemed to sum up rejection better than the others: I don’t want my normal to be snatched away. Life feels impossibly risky when I’m reminded how unpredictable circumstances can shatter and forever change what I know and love about my life. And in the fallout, some pieces never find a way to fall back into place.
It’s like taking a photograph containing all the people you love and suddenly some of those people purposely cut themselves out of the picture. And the gaping hole left behind is in some ways worse than death. If their absence was caused by death, you would grieve their loss. But when their absence is caused by rejection, you not only grieve their loss but you also have to wrestle through the fact that they wanted this. They chose to cut themselves out.
Though you are devastated, they are possibly walking away feeling relieved. Or worse, they might even feel happy. And there you sit, staring at a jacked-up photograph that no glue in the world can fix. Normal has been taken. Not by accident. But very much on purpose by someone you never expected could be such a thief.
Rejection steals the security of all we thought was beautiful and stable and leaves us scared and fragile and more vulnerable than ever.
But God. He’s there. Jesus said, “I have come into the world as light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness,” (John 12:46). With Jesus I can walk out of this dark place.
Yes, He is the One whom I know can help me. Heal me. Show me what to do when I’m hurting. Therefore, I must do whatever He instructs me to do right now. I must embrace Him. And I know I can’t continue to fully embrace God while rejecting His ways.
So I turn to Him. And really listen to where He’s leading me with a willing heart.
God drops a word into my heart. Like a swig of orange juice just after brushing my teeth, I recoil at the unexpected taste. Of grace.
Why grace?! Because grace given when it feels least deserved is the only antidote for bitterness. Just because I’ve been hurt doesn’t mean I now have to live hurt. I can get mad and bitter and spread more hurt around. Or, I can give grace and gentle responses and spread more hope around.
Hurt people, hurt people.
Healed people, heal people.
And I want to be in that latter group.
There’s nothing we can do to eliminate the pain of rejection. Oh, how I wish there were. With every fiber of my being, I wish I could remove it from my world and from yours. But I can’t. The only thing I’ve seen work in my life to help my heart heal from these deep wounds is the constant pursuit of the sweetest grace.
To love God is to cooperate with His grace. And since I’m so very aware of my own need for grace, I must be willing to freely give it away. Each hole left from rejection must become an opportunity to create more and more space for grace in my heart.
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