Saturday, May 1, 2010

From the book . . .

Chapter 16

Rejection fear

Let me see . . . I’m guessing everything you do is completely accepted and loved by those around you. Others pay homage to your every word and deed, never uttering a critical peep. Ahhh . . . bliss. No? Really?
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.
Colossians 3:23-24

Rejection certainly isn’t pleasant, and I’m not sure it’s the most spiritual way to learn what our work is all about, but it’s effective. I know, because I can take anything now. That happens when your work (which is really you, and those who would criticize seem to consider that connection as meaningless as the dining habits of a snail) is rejected and criticized and denied with the regularity of the moon phases. Happens to me all the time.

And never one to miss an opportunity, my Architect and I have built a whole wing of my temple on that rejection. It’s taken a while—a painful while—but God’s a patient builder. Pity He’s had to make such an elaborate addition to my life here, but I suppose it has its benefits. Got a problem with rejection? I can help you with that.

I was once greatly afraid of an editor’s criticism, but too many instances of that (thank you, Lord—I’m practicing gratitude in “everything,” work with me here) and the fear that made me want to take my ladder down, dismantle and hide it has morphed into something else. It’s become safety glass to the erratic nail gun of my life. I still feel disappointed and convicted, but now unafraid to face what comes. That’s how we deal with the “disapproval” of men. We take it like a revision to the blueprint and see where it goes—constantly holding God’s plumb line to it.

Does He agree with someone else’s criticism? If so, what have I missed and how can I find it? How can my next steps lead me closer to His approval if I’ve wandered off course? Is my motive pure and does my work reflect His grace? Others’ voices help me double-check what I’m hearing from God, and then He’s the only one I listen to. That’s why the rejection becomes more mortar than chisel. It’s just part of the process.

I talked to a friend the other day about a relationship I’d tried to cultivate with a mutual acquaintance. Nothing worked. I’d sent gifts and cards, invited her for coffee, offered friendship—nothing. Zip. Zero response. Before she had me arrested for stalking, I said ok, enough, I’ll move on. My friend who loves me reacted to my story with a protective bent.

“It’s all right,” I told her. “I take rejection well.” And it was true. Not always, but in most cases, now I can respond when someone says no in a more grown-up way, looking to God for guidance and trying to measure His pleasure with my efforts. That keeps me building, able to reach out to others and risk the rejection again, able to write more words and risk the rejection again, able to face roomfuls of expectant faces and risk the rejection again. It’s the finished floor beneath me that holds me steady so that I can try again. And given my record, that’s a pretty thick floor.

The fear of rejection is hard to kill, like one of those psychotic, axe-wielding villains in the basement of a teen horror movie. The Hebrews didn’t want to be rejected and ridiculed by those around them, so they chose to face the disapproval of God. Maybe you have some of those situations around you today, making it easier to dig in the dirt than step up a little higher. That’s why God sends helpers.

Every jobsite has a foreman in charge and a lot of helpers—those who can’t do your building for you but who can help. They can read blueprints, gather supplies, measure boards, sharpen tools. God sends them to you, so look out for the helpers at your jobsite. Learn from them by taking advantage of the lessons they’ve already learned, by watching how they face their fears and stay on the ladder despite swinging in the wind.

Praise be to the Lord, for he has heard my cry for mercy.
The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped.
Psalm 28:6-7

And if your critics crash your party, let me help you with that. That’s part of why we’re here, now, meeting in this book. I pray when we’re done that you’re more able to stand tall and unafraid upon your ladder, trusting God and claiming His promises no matter what anybody else says or does. The best is yet to be, one rung at a time. Let us be helpers to each other.

Stalled, fearing the impossible on your to-do list? Can’t you just see Moses after conversing with God at the world’s original bonfire, hear the soft thud of the heel of his palm against the side of his tilted head, the confusion and fear drawing wrinkles on his brow? But Moses said to God, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” And God said, “I will be with you” (Exodus 3:11-12). When God makes our to-do list, He never needs an eraser, because He knows what we have and what we don’t, and what we have is plenty, because it’s Him. Who am I, who are you to do His will? We’re who He’s chosen. He still promises He’s with you.

Read below or download the study of Moses for yourself or your group.

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