On Wednesday nights the class I teach is going through Jennie Allen’s Bible study, Restless. I had read the book and was pretty sure what I was getting myself into. We learn about God’s big story and our place in it. We look at our gifts, suffering, places, and relationships to understand where we can best serve in the kingdom.
Everything was going as planned until Jennie had us list the times in our lives where we have suffered, based on specific stages of life. Before this exercise, if you would have asked me about my times of suffering, I’d list my miserable 8 months in car sales, my postpartum depression, my father-in-law’s cancer, my husband’s layoff, and my mom’s cancer.
What I found instead took me entirely by surprise.
In almost every life stage — early childhood, pre-teen, teen, and college, I found that my suffering moments had one theme: rejection. I was shocked. After all, I was never rejected by the people closest to me like my parents or husband. I was never abandoned. I have not had a life that even justifies the word “rejected.” So many people in the world really have been.
Still, just because my heart issues don’t compare in scope with others’ real life sitautions, I couldn’t dismiss it. I had to force myself to do the tough work of examining this part of my life. When I did, I uncovered some ugly things. My fear of rejection pervades every area of my life. For the longest time I thought I just longed for approval. But no, it was much more than that. I have always done everything I could possibly do to avoid rejection at all costs.
Not only that, but I take everything personally. I stew for days if I think I’ve offended someone. I replay conversations over and over in my head, wondering if I said something wrong. I beat myself up if my mouth talks faster than my brain can muzzle it, or if my facial expression points to real feelings I’d rather keep hidden.
Figuring this all out has been a daunting realization. In some ways, it explains so much, and I understand myself much better. In other ways, I feel smothered by the knowledge, understanding my rejection roots run so deep, how will I ever break free?
Will I ever get to the point that Jesus. Is. Enough? When will I be completely okay if He and I are okay? When will I be able to live my best, being satisfied with whatever comes with it? When will I stop ruminating and analyzing conversations and relationships and just be? (How exhausting it must be to be my friend I realize!)
I don’t have the answer. I guess that’s why my blog is called a Journey. Through this Restless study, God is taking me through a difficult place but I know it is because I can’t live free while shackled to my fear of rejection.
Part of me doesn’t think He’ll completely set me free this side of heaven. I think this may be the thorn in my flesh (see 2 Cor. 12:7-10), constantly reminding me to come to Him for my worth, for my approval. If I were to become truly untethered, I’m sure I would begin to trust in my own understanding and find my contentment in myself, and that’s definitely not ideal, either.
So for now, I share my struggle, in hopes that it will encourage someone, and in an effort to keep myself from cocooning from the world. Just today I found myself mentally shutting down around people I love because it seemed to be a protection for me. Rejection – real or imagined – just hurts so badly that I want to avoid it at all costs. But guarding my heart isn’t healthy, and it surely isn’t how God created us to function in the body of Christ.
Thank you for allowing me the freedom of sharing my raw heart with you today.
Dorothy Hill says
Your transparency is powerful. Thank you for sharing such a personal struggle. This highlights what it means to ‘do’ a Bible study. Doing the hard work that comes because the Spirit lovingly shows us something that needs our attention. So glad you paid attention to the Spirit’s prompting and didn’t just turn the page to go on to the next lesson. Hugs abounding to you.
Thank you, Dorothy.
Rachel Hough says
Thank you for talking about this in such an open manner. Rejection is what plagues me as well. I’m working on it, still….after almost 30 years. It’s hard, but with God’s help it’s a process that’s going on.
Sarah Giammo says
Jill, thanks for opening your heart. I can only imagine how difficult it was to write this post and how vulnerable you feel right now. I hope that as you continue your journey you find the peace you are searching for.