Rejection has been a recurring theme in my life. I have had thick glasses since I was about five years old. When you have glasses like I wear, it’s easy to get to be classified as really smart or a little crazy. I was also relatively short. I’m not sure why most societies honor the taller people, but I considered it a reality that I didn’t naturally get picked for the team—whatever that team was. I was also skinny, which can be good for a woman but not always the strongest feature in a man. The fact that we were relatively poor didn’t help either. From the pictures, I gather this led not only to a lack of clothes but also some poor wardrobe choices. I’m not bitter about the situation I was nurtured in, I just notice that it left me with an intense desire to fit in.
To make it worse, at age seven, a preacher convinced me that I had also been rejected by God. Even now, I’m trying to take inventory of just how evil a young man can be at age seven. I know it wasn’t adultery and I hadn’t murdered anyone. I wasn’t to the lusting stage yet and I hadn’t yet learned how to steal (that would come later when I went to a Christian school). I hadn’t chiseled out any graven images and I had not yet learned how to cuss (again, the Christian school would help me learn that skill eventually). I certainly realize there was always the possibility of not honoring my father and mother—but, for a timid soul, I’m not sure that was a big issue. I kept the sabbath holy because I didn’t have a choice. I’m pretty sure, at age seven, it boiled down to coveting. From the time I was old enough to speak I’m sure I wanted other kids’ toys and vehemently yelled, “mine!” So that was probably it—that is why God rejected me and was going to torture me forever. They didn’t use the word rejected. They said that he had “turned his back” on me. Kind of seems like the same thing. He no longer could stand to look at me.
No need to worry—I walked to the front of the church that day and said the sinner’s prayer. Later that month I also got baptized. The bad news is, it didn’t stop me from sinning. In fact, later in life, I learned to do bigger and worse things. I learned how to steal, and lust and a myriad of other things prohibited by the Bible and my denomination. I would have been classified as mischievous by most, and the system I was in promoted shaming those that stepped outside of the boundaries of good behavior. I can’t remember everything that happened, but I know what I did most with that shame and rejection is stuff it down inside of me. Eventually, I was left with a nagging feeling that I didn’t belong, and that people would eventually reject me because I was sure even God didn’t really accept me. How could He?
When I had children, it changed my life in many ways. I experienced love and affection like I have never felt, but also, I felt rejection like I would never have imagined. Most of this rejection was simply my children going through the stages of life and me not being prepared for those transformations. It starts with something as simple as them preferring to play with their friends instead of me to them staying out all night with friends “just to talk.” If you have been a parent, you know why this is thing—it’s because they once they are teenagers, they lock themselves in their room and only come out for feedings and to find lost clothing items. We may need to rethink the “go to your room” punishment.
Later in life, I experienced feelings of rejection when they went to college and started dating. At almost every stage of their lives, Laura had to explain to me that they were changing and just doing what is natural. I was feeling rejection because I wasn’t prepared. They were not rejecting me, they were just maturing. They were going through a natural separation and growth process into becoming responsible, independent adults. I think we can all agree if my children were rejecting me, that would be a childish and immature emotion. It wouldn’t be what is expected, and it wouldn’t be helpful in the growth process. But, it wasn’t even that.
So, let’s get back to how God feels about me. The preacher seemed to be telling me that, as the parent, God was very disappointed in my behavior. He was so disappointed with my egregious sins that not only did he feel the need to torture me forever; but he was also going to take a posture of “turning his back on me.” As I have said so often, I could never do that to my children. And, I am a mediocre parent at best. If I assume the role of the child, I can honestly say that I also was not rejecting God. My frontal lobe wasn’t fully developed yet, and I was just trying to get through seven-year-old life with my thick glasses and shortness and all the other baggage that comes with living in the early 70’s. I didn’t shake my fist at God or wreck his car or get someone pregnant. I have never understood parents that arrive at a position of “you are no longer my son/daughter.” I can’t imagine that as a parent and I certainly cannot imagine God stooping to that level.
What I want to believe is simply this. When we are at our worst, like a good parent, God draws closer to us not further away (see the Garden account). When I feel rejection, it is because of my faulty understanding. To reject someone is to exhibit childish and adolescent behavior. Rejection is not a quality I can honestly ascribe to a God that is supposed to be love. I am not a great parent, but God is at least better than me.
Rejection is not helpful—it is hurtful. It has taken at least half of my life to get over the repercussions of rejection. I cannot accept that God rejects us. I can accept that a good parent and a God of love would notice my behavior, draw close to me, and say very simply, “It’s okay, I understand. I love you and we will get though this together.” This model I’m working from has not only helped my relationship with God. I think it’s making me a better human.