Summary: Everyone experiences rejection at some point. What do we do when it happens? We do as Jesus did!
This is How We Overcome…Rejection!
With Easter just a few weeks away, it’s the time of year we focus our attention on the suffering and death of our beloved Savior Jesus Christ. The Christian Church’s annual commemoration of Lent, the time leading up to Easter, gives opportunity to rethink, rehash, and remember what Jesus really did on the cross that day, and our celebration of Easter gives opportunity to recommit to memory what really happened in the tomb that day and afterwards. We are then able to realistically and honestly consider how we live this day and let God refresh and rejuvenate our faith in Jesus who overcame so that we might overcome.
The story is told of a young man, Michael who felt the call of God on his life so went to college and then seminary. Before heading to his first church after graduation he went home for a visit with family, stopping by his church to talk with the Pastor who invited him to preach that Sunday. He was honored and took the Pastor up on his invitation. After days of preparation Sunday came and Michael stepped behind the pulpit, looked out at the congregation of friends and relatives and began to expound on Scripture, even impressing himself with his vast array of knowledge. After awhile, his six-year old niece, Katie, stepped out into the aisle with her hands on her hips, left foot in front of the other, head cocked to one side, and interrupting the sermon she said in a very loud and clear voice, “Uncle Michael, you don’t know what you’re talking about!”
Rejection hurts! It’s hard to handle coming from anybody, but from your six-year old sweet niece? That’s painful! Yet rejection at the hands of loved ones is common. Jesus was rejected in His home town by relatives. That hurt! In fact, Jesus’ entire ministry was marked by rejection; He was put off more than pampered; cast aside more often than coddled; turned down more often than taken in; abandoned more often than accepted; forsaken more than favored, and rejected more than received. Rejection reached its climax on the cross of Calvary when He died for the very people who rejected Him.
When we think of the suffering of Jesus we most often gravitate to the severe scourging, beating, and tearing of His flesh; this physical torture is beyond our comprehension. But the emotional suffering, which included rejection, was every bit as severe; inducing hurt and pain to the same degree as the physical torture. Maybe you’ve heard the phrase “Rejection hurts”! It turns out that couldn’t be more true! In fact, a 2011 study at the University of Michigan found through MRI scans that the same identical regions of the brain are activated when we experience physical pain and when we feel rejection. In other words, our brains react the same way whether a cup of hot coffee is spilled on us or we “get burned” through rejection; It hurts!
Rejection does a number on people because it makes us feel unwanted, unneeded, unnecessary, and unworthy; basic needs in life. It can really mess with our identity especially if it is ingrained early in life! But, the good news is, like anything else, when it happens we have a choice; we can accept or reject rejection, be dominated by our feelings or by faith, rise above or sink below, overcome or be overcome rejection. Naturally all of this is easier said than done, but no less necessary.
I grew up feeling rejected; thinking I could never measure up, never fit it, never do or say enough to prove my worth whether at home, school, on the job, or church. It wasn’t any one person’s fault it was every person’s fault. THEY hurt, belittled, and rejected me. They, not me! At least that’s what I thought. But these thoughts fed my false identity, perceiving any negativity as rejection and living as a victim.
One experience took the cake however! I was in year four as Head Volleyball Coach at a high school in a small farming community in northern Minnesota. I inherited a losing program where there was little motivation and skill and most everyone thought volleyball was just a recreational activity. Instilling a work ethic was tough because everything took precedence over practices during the season and off-season conditioning and camps were unheard of. Yet I was expected to make the girls winners on the court. So I went about my business teaching correct techniques, improving coaching at the lower levels, setting up camps, and developing off-season training programs the girls could do at home. By the end of this fourth season we were at least competing; which only meant we didn’t lose as fast as we used to!
But don’t ever say “winning isn’t everything” to a bunch of parents who are tired of losing. At the year-end banquet I had a hunch parents weren’t happy, I just didn’t know how UNHAPPY they were until the athletic director and principal called me into the school the following week. They handed me a signed, sealed, and delivered petition from the parents to have me fired as volleyball coach. A little extreme I think? The accusations about my inability to effectively coach demeaned and humiliated me! To make matters worse the initiators of the petition were the parents of my best player. I went out of my way to help their older daughter with her coaching internship that same season, taking up more of my time and energy. And this is what I got in return?