Part One of Two
I always thought I’d run into her in a supermarket aisle or perhaps in the doctor’s rooms. It was neither as it turned out. At the shopping mall, as I emerged from the ladies’ rest room, there she was: approaching the rest room from the opposite direction, in a long narrow corridor only two or three feet wide. Just her and me, with no chance of avoiding one another or disappearing into a crowd. I had rehearsed this moment in my mind. “Hello – , how are you?” I did my best to make eye contact, but she looked everywhere but at my eyes. I smiled, genuinely wanting her to know we could start afresh right here in this moment. A new chapter in the relationship was possibly in front of us.
What came back at me were coldness, anger and resentment. And most of all, outright rejection of all I was attempting to offer in word and demeanour. I paused briefly, hoping for some ….well, hope. Her step unhalted, her face indicating no emotion, and with eyes looking steadfastly past me, her answer was as cold and indifferent as her body language. She was ‘doing as well as could be expected’. She kept walking, eager to end the inconvenient and undesirable encounter. Obviously the rest rooms held more attraction than another moment in my presence.
She is someone that, in a perfect world, should be close to me. Very close. Not so long ago I dared to protest about long entrenched abusive behaviours that were painfully impacting others I loved. The reaction was a swift drawing of the curtains on our relationship. I was no longer necessary or desirable to her life or wellbeing. And so it has remained, despite my many attempts at reconciliation.
Rejection. It’s ground we’ve all walked, isn’t it? I’d go so far as to say it’s something most of us fear. As I reflected recently on this very painful relationship-breakdown, the Holy Spirit whispered something I had never before considered. “People reject other people because there is something in them they fear. The person rejecting you is more afraid of you than you are of their rejection. Proceed without fear.” So that’s the plan.
And here’s something else I learned from that divine whisper. The fear of rejection is at the root of what the Bible calls ‘the fear of man’. Proverbs 29 warns the fear of man is a snare or a trap.
The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD shall be safe. Prov. 29:25
We like to think we are fearless. And there may well be many situations in which we are fearless. But wherever we find ourselves needing the approval of others, whether it be family, colleagues, church leaders or the wider community, the fear of man is influencing us.
Rejection is possibly the most painful emotion a human being can experience. But whatever the level of rejection we may experience, Jesus has gone even further and deeper into that specific pain. Rejected by his family, his religious leaders, his nation and by humanity itself, He walked right into that place we so dread.
And why are we so vulnerable to rejection? Because somewhere in the collective human psyche we have swallowed the lie that way back in time God rejected the human race. The subliminal picture of our forebears, Adam and Eve, being banished from the Garden, with a flaming sword and guardian cherubs posted to prevent our return, is carried in the deepest part of our souls and reinforced early in our Sunday School lessons. The truth is God did not reject us, we rejected God, but that’s another discussion.
But that too the Cross has dealt with. ‘My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?’ must be the most harrowing cry ever uttered by a human being. Putting aside arguments about whether the Father spiritually forsook His Son in that terrible hour, the reality is that Jesus experienced separation from God, His Father, at the deepest emotional level possible. He willingly embraced the pain of the most profound rejection a human being can know, in order to fully and completely identify with humanity’s suffering. It was not the prospect of the whip, the nails, or a slow tortuous death that caused Him to sweat out His own blood the evening prior to His crucifixion. It was the dread of that agonising separation from His Father, that imminent and unimaginable experience of divine rejection.
For those who have tasted rejection in whatever form it comes there is healing and freedom, because Jesus opened the way back – back to the Father and back to one another. That flaming sword is no longer preventing our entrance to the Presence of God. The guardian cherubs now welcome us.
But those who choose to use rejection as a weapon of personal power, those whose approval or disapproval is meted out to others as a means of control over them, suffer immense loss. They are captives to a terrible fear that they don’t measure up in some way or another. They reject before they can be rejected. May God help them.
For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ. Gal. 1:10
It is not wrong to please others if we seek to please out of the freedom we have found in Christ. But as long as we walk in a carnal ‘fear of man’ we are hindered in our worship of God. The One who was unwilling to leave us separated from Himself has made a way, through the Cross, for each of us to be healed of rejection, the ‘fear of man’. We can trust Him to take us all the way.
Related Article: No Fear ? Part Two
© Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, 2015 and beyond. Copyright Notice: Permission is granted to freely reproduce any Bread for the Bride articles in emails or internet blogs, unaltered, and providing this copyright notice is included. To permanently display an article on any static website please contact me for permission.