After I had been in Christ for about four years, I had my biggest set-back as a woman of faith – I lost a friend to a misunderstanding and no matter how hard I fought for it, we never recovered. To say I was devastated would be putting it lightly. Having someone who knew all of my darkest secrets and up until the point of separation, cheered every single milestone (from law school graduation, to salvation in Christ, to my engagement and more) broke my heart. My foundations were rocked. All of my secret fears about not being good enough to love came roaring back to life. My thoughts ran haphazardly from guilt and shame (“I ruined our friendship/I am a walking mistake”) to anger and dejection (“I can’t believe she thinks that of me/how could she do this to us?”).
Forgiveness came easier than healing. I still have to submit and resubmit my feelings of rejection to God. It has been almost seven years, and even now, there is still a pit in my stomach when I think too long or too hard about how our friendship has changed. In the years since our fall-out, I have had time to put the situation in context.
This was someone I cherish (and I still do even if it is from a greater distance than before). Although we had history, we also had two different views of the world and our journeys as women have been drastically different. There are some experiences that God has redeemed in my own life (long-term abuse, destructive relationship with women and years of self-loathing) for which she has no context because these were not her experiences. Although she could sympathize with the pain I was trying to process, she did not have the tools to empathize with my process. Speaking about my pain (in an effort to find healing) to her likely looked like digging up old stuff and stirring up drama. If she did not want any parts of the chaos that was my process, who could blame her?
Losing my safe place (with women who I was able to share my heart freely and without judgment) forced me to re-evaluate my why? Why was I feeling compelled to speak about my past sexual abuse and trauma? Surely, I am not the only woman who has ever endured such a thing (1 in 3, as a matter of fact), so why was I the only one in my circle (friends, community, church) who was so vocal about the topic? Why did I really want women to know all of the pain I had endured from a young age until adulthood? Asking myself these questions meant examining my motives. Was I trying to encourage others on a similar journey or was I actually trying to prove something to all the people that hurt me? (“You did not break me/you lose!”)
Did God actually ask me to share these things? Or was I addicted to the sympathy of others and therefore perpetually sought to play the victim? (“Please feel sorry for me and then maybe you will stop rejecting me.”)
As I combed through my motives, I found that they were mixed. A large part of me wanted to share my life in order to offer help, hope and encouragement to any kindred hearts that were listening. But a part of me was still very angry. I did not deserve the abuse I endured and the people who hurt me needed to know what a mess they left for me to clean up. Also, those that insisted on misunderstanding me needed a reality check so they could cut the crap and stop putting me through so much heartache.
So, who deserved abuse (since I already decided I did not)? Who would I wish trauma and dysfunction and brokenness upon? The answer was no one. No one deserves abuse. God did not write that into any of His plans for our lives. He can use it, certainly. He can redeem it, absolutely – but it is not His desire for His children to be mistreated.
Had it not been for the rejection I experienced earlier on in my attempts to speak the truths that have shaped my life, I would be walking in a perverted purpose right now. Rather than sharing the story of God’s redemption, I would be on a “revenge world tour,” speaking to multitudes about who hurt me and why they suck. Your purpose is in you, from the very beginning – just like writing, teaching and speaking have been my gifts and passions for as long as I can remember. But without clean hands (pure motives) and a pure heart (directed by, and in communication with God), purpose will become perversion.
If I am willing and obedient, rejection can be just the redirection I need to get to the expected end that God desires for my life. If I am stubborn and stiff-necked, however, rejection will embitter me. It almost did. In the beginning it was a constant battle between “forget them; they are blind to what God is doing in your life; you don’t need them,” and “I forgive them, Lord; I repent for every part I played in this misunderstanding; help me to love them for real.”
I had such a chip on my shoulder because there were so many people I wanted to prove wrong. I wanted to succeed to spite them, not to glorify God. If I could be blunt, my success was gonna be the big middle finger to everyone who ever doubted my ability or my intentions. I am so grateful to God that He loves me too much to let me continue in such a perverted state of mind. When I see it in other people now, I cringe, because there – but for the grace of God – goes I. I could be the one marketing and selling shade and calling it ministry. Or packaging my hurt and rejection and calling it a “how-to” on success. It could have been me. But healing made the difference. Wholeness (although a process, even today) changed me for the better. Rejection redirected me to purpose. Without that redirection, all the efforts I am putting into the world today would be tainted with the stench of offense and unforgiveness.
In the book of Exodus 1, it is noted that the more the Egyptians oppressed the Israelites, the more they grew and multiplied. If the Egyptians had welcomed the children of God as a part of them, they would have intermarried and the nation of Israel would have completely assimilated into Egyptian culture. Egypt’s fear and racism allowed Israel to remain set-apart as God intended for them, and ultimately became the catalyst for their growth and fruitful multiplication in a foreign land. When you are a child of God, affliction is the best soil for your fruitfulness. The more we are afflicted, the more we grow. But when we do not have the mind of Christ, affliction just feels like God is picking on us. It makes us resentful, bitter and short-sighted – we overlook the providence and sovereignty of God in our challenges.
Some of the worst rejection I have endured has redirected my life in the best ways. The friends who temporarily damaged and walked out on me were actually incompatible with my life. I loved them so I wanted to keep them, but had we not gone our separate ways – my marriage, my God-given purpose and my sense of self would have suffered. I thank God for their ‘no’.
The romantic relationships that proved dysfunctional and temporary were heartbreaks at the time, but without those “no’s” I would have never sought to do anything different in my approach to romance. I would have rode the Ferris Wheel of dysfunction over and over again for the entirety of my lifetime. The rejection I experienced in relationships made me sit down and take stock of my life. It made me acknowledge the reality that I had always done romance on my own terms – based on what I liked and whatever my feelings dictated. Never once because of what the Bible commands or what God desires specifically for my life and who He has created me to be. Facing that truth made me change my ways. It made me study what, if anything, the Bible had to say about relationships between men and women. It made me ask questions of the couples I admired, and it made me count the cost of building the kind of relationship and marriage I said I wanted. The ‘no’ from men forced me on the path of sexual integrity (sexual integrity is the practice of aligning your sexuality and it’s expression with your beliefs and ethics – practicing what you preach when it comes to sex). Without their no, I would have continued on the path of “trying everything” even it if violated my conscience, just because I wanted a ring.
Rejection has been a blessing. I am not going to lie and say it feels like a blessing while it is happening. It is one of the most emotionally agonizing pain I have endured, but regardless of how it feels, on the other side of it, I am able to see what it has accomplished. A ‘no’ from man is not the end of the world, especially when it has led to to the “yes” from God.