I still remember the day I didn’t make the 7th grade girls volleyball team. I stood in a cluster of girls with bangs and braces around a bulletin board in the school hallway while looking up at the list of names pinned to the board. I still remember the flushed feeling of my face and the disappointed and embarrassed ache in my heart when I realized my name wasn’t on the list. It was as if the list bore confirmation to the subconscious thoughts always circling around in my head and heart – “Yep. This just shows you’re not enough – never have been, never will be.”
Rejection hurts, no matter if you are 13 or 43.
But while rejection usually has the first word in our ears when we miss the mark or miss the grade or don’t make the team, it doesn’t have to have the last word.
After you’ve been rejected (and let’s face it – who hasn’t been rejected? It’s part and parcel of living as a human on this earth), it takes a ton of work not to see all of life through the lens of “not enough,” shame, embarrassment, and failure. It’s hard not to make inner promises and vows of, “I don’t need them,” or “I’ll just show them later,” and walk off either stuffing our hurts or spewing our hurts in unhealthy ways.
Lately, I’ve found that I need a refresher course on how to walk through rejection. Not just for myself, but for my kids. Because with the start of every new school year comes the start of new friend groups, new teams, and new tryouts. Everyone tries everything and everyone on for size to see if you fit the group and make the cut.
And it’s a funny thing – when your kids enter junior high, if you’re not careful and watching your heart and your step, you can feel like you’re entering junior high all over again as well.
So as I hugged a friend tight this week and prayed through a hurt her child had received from rejection, this is what I had to remember for myself, my friend, and our kids:
Rejection happens. That’s because life happens, and we live in a fallen world. I think my goal for so long was to rejection-proof my life. I thought if I could only be a good enough or if my kids could be good enough or take good enough lessons, make good enough grades, or be good enough friends, I could fool-proof our lives from rejection and its crippling effects.
But that just isn’t possible. Rejection is going to happen for ourselves and our kids. So at some point, I realized I could either continue to walk through life feeling continually hurt and offended, or I could change. And that meant my goals needed to change as well. Instead of trying to insulate my life from rejection, I needed to change the lens on my life.
What I mean is this: when we or our kids don’t make the cut, we automatically determine we are bad or there is something inherently bad or faulty in us or about us. But instead of the lens being rejection, what if the lens we had on our eyes was protection? When we don’t get what we want when we want it, what if we told ourselves and our kids the truth: “What looks like rejection is God’s protection.” And when hard things happen (and they will), if God is our Father, then everything that happens to us or touches us has first passed through His Hands of steadfast, unending love. We must learn to tell ourselves while meaning it and believing it with all of our hearts – “Everything is necessary that God sends our way; nothing can be necessary that He withholds” (John Newton).
“No, your name isn’t on the list for that particular team, but yes, God is working out in your soul an eternal weight of glory that will far outlast anything you could have gained by making the cut and making the team.”
“No, you weren’t included in that friend group or spend the night, but yes, God is protecting you from something you cannot see with your physical eyes and drawing you close to time with Himself that will shape your soul for much longer than a night spent with friends.”
“No, you didn’t get the job, but yes, it’s because God has a specific, tailor-made purpose for you that does not involve the path you thought you would take. He has other things in store.”
We must learn that behind every no is the sovereign yes of God. And learning to hear God’s “Yes” behind every “No,” learning to see protection instead of rejection, learning to see that nothing is withheld from us that we need and behind every “no” is a good Father’s steadfast love, takes a lifetime of following closely to Jesus.
But parents, let me warn you of something I have learned the hard way through personal experience: your child’s vision begins with yours. What your child sees behind the “No” begins with what you see. What your child hears behind the rejection hears begins with how you hear. And if all your child can see and hear on a regular, perpetual basis is rejection and failure and bitterness and anger and shame that life isn’t going the way they want it to or would chose for it to, the first person to look to change is yourself.
When your child hears or receives a “No” when all they wanted was “Yes,” STOP. PAUSE. PRAY. Before you start seeing the decision or rejection or relationship through your child’s negative lenses, stop long enough to put on lenses of your own. Lenses of the steadfast love of the Lord that never ceases and whose mercies never come to an end. They are there for the taking; you just have to choose to put them on. And parents, it takes a lot of self-control not to enter into the negative emotions of gossip or slander or bitterness or – let’s just be honest – envy that go along with rejection.
You and your kids are going to be sad. That’s ok. Feel the pain and sadness with your child, rub their back and dry their tears, but then speak words of life. Speak God’s “Yes” over them when all they can hear is “No.” Speak humility and submission to authority figures and obedience instead of helping them demand their way or the highway.
There is a time to speak up for your child when injustice has occurred, but those times are few and far between. Most of the time, we are to pause, humble ourselves under the mighty Hand of God, and let Him exalt us and our kids when and how He wants to do it.
WARNING LABEL: THIS IS NOT EASY. Your children will be mad at you, stalk away from you, and resist hearing you. They will want to demand their own way, stomp their own feet, and sulk in a corner.
STAND YOUR GROUND, MOMMA, AND DON’T LET THEM.
Because what’s at stake isn’t their place on the volleyball team; it’s the eternal state of their soul. What’s at stake isn’t their name on a list; it’s their names written in the Lamb’s book of Life.
And while I wish our kids learned depth of character, kindness, humility and the value of hard work and discipline through making the team, being in their friend group of choice, and getting what they want when they want it, the best character lessons are learned through suffering. The caverns of obedience are carved out through the “No’s” and their ability to remain present, moldable, and humble.
Next week, we have volleyball tryouts, musical auditions, and the start of school on the docket. There is going to be ample opportunity for me to practice what I preach in the days ahead.
So when you see me, feel free to ask me, “Are you seeing rejection as protection? Are you hearing God’s “Yes” behind every “No”? Are you agreeing with the negativity of rejection, or are you choosing to hear God’s words of life and love? And are you helping your kiddos do the same? Are you honoring the authority figures in their life, the parents in the grade who make mistakes just like you do, and are you choosing to be humble?”
I need all the help I can get.
Because at the end of the day, what I want for myself and for my kids isn’t the perfect resume, but a humble heart. A heart that loves Jesus and has been shaped by the fires of suffering and obedience, just as His was (Hebrews 5:8), and comes forth loving God more than we ever thought possible. What I want is for my child’s life to go according to God’s way and not my way, even when His way involves the inevitable “No’s.”
And I know that you want that too; so let’s commit this year to putting on our lenses of God’s unfailing love and helping our kids to do the same.
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? …
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:31-32, 35-39