As I mentioned in another post, I have struggled with fear my whole life. Two of the biggest fears that are the core of who I am are the Fear of Vulnerability and the Fear of Rejection. I’m afraid of being vulnerable because I am afraid of being rejected. I’m afraid of rejection, so I refrain from vulnerability. It’s all interconnected in this weird way in my head.
Recently, one of my roommates told me, “You seem to have been rejected a lot in your life.”
After stopping to think of it, I realized this is true. Rejection has been a common theme in my life. It started in junior high with the cliques who rejected me. Then in my church in high school when most of the teenagers there rejected me. Then of course, there’s the rejection of guy after guy—in friendships as well as dating relationships.
It is not just the groups, either. It has happened a handful of times with friends I thought were true friends. Friends whom I loved dearly, and who walked out of my life abruptly and unexpectedly. One friend didn’t invite me to her wedding (and I had been helping plan her wedding shower). Others have walked out subtly. My junior year in college was a particularly hard year where I had a few friends close to me begin to have conflict with me—first in subtle ways, then piling up accusations against me. Everything became my fault.
Throughout my life, I wonder, “Why? What is wrong with me?” Yes, I am not a perfect person. But most of the people who have rejected me were people I deeply cared about. They were people whom I tried as hard as possible to be their friends or to maintain the friendship. Did I handle everything perfectly? No. It is my nature to think that when rejection happens, it is all my fault. I always run through each scenario, wondering what I did wrong, wondering what personal flaw brought around my rejection. Then, I must try and fix myself. I must become someone different than who I am just so that I can somehow be accepted. I never consider the other person in the equation.
At the beginning of 2010, I was attending a Christian conference. At that conference, I began to see how utterly idolatrous my relationships with people were. I worship people far above God. I fear rejection from man, and the fear is so great simply because I worship man. My identity, my value and worth, was in people. Throughout my life, rejection has always crushed me because I put such a high value in what people think of me. I want so badly to be what people want me to be. And so often, I have to fit into their preconceived ideas of who I am. Or I have to change my personality. Or hide my deepest passions and thoughts from them. So I quench myself, and my devotion in Christ, to please those around me.
As a Christ follower, I began to see that this was sin. It was a sin that wound itself around the core of who I was: this need to find satisfaction, fulfillment, in people. In fact, most of my other sins—my fear, my past anorexia, my depression, etc—all stemmed from relational issues. My desperate need to be filled by people and their love.
Yet Christ told us to take up our cross and follow Him (Mark 10:21). He told us to love Him with all our hearts, bodies, mind, and strength (Luke 10:27). He told us to love Him so much that our other loves would pale in comparison (Matthew 10:37-39). I must abide in His love (John 15:9). My identity and value should be in Christ. Christ loves me, yet I so often run to idols who cannot satisfy. I cannot worship people.
So I repented. I knelt down on the ground in my dorm room, crying harder than I ever have before as I realized the magnitude of my sin in this area of my life. And I asked that God begin to show Him what finding my identity in Christ would mean. “I want You to be first in my life,” I told Him. “Do whatever it takes to teach me to love You first.”
That “epiphany of repentance” was right at the beginning of 2010. After that, the weirdest thing happened. From that moment on until the end of my senior year in college (May 2011), I had the hardest period of relational rejection ever. The conflict with good friends I talked about earlier started. I realized anew how much my guy friendships/dating relationships had deeply wounded me. I had several good guy friends I thought would really be there for me leave. All potential dating relationships fell apart. Several friendships I was clinging to disintegrated.
It all came to a head the last semester of my senior year. A good friend I loved so much emailed me and told me she was walking out of my life. To this day, I really have no idea why. This was the climax. I felt stabbed in the heart. So betrayed and bewildered in every way. I remember praying to God, “I don’t understand. Why do You keep taking people away that I care about? What is the point of all this?”
But as I prayed, I knew this time in life was not a coincidence. God was asking me to face the Fear of Rejection. “Teryn, you will be facing rejection the rest of your life,” He told me. “The more you love Christ, the more rejection you will experience. You can’t be afraid of man and his rejection. And I love you too much to let you stay bound by this fear anymore.”
And then it all came together in my mind.
If Christ was rejected, I will be rejected. Rejection is something that will be part of a Christian’s walk if they are truly passionate about Christ. Why should we expect any less when Christ Himself went through such pain and rejection in His life?
The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed and be raised up on the third day. (Luke 9:22)
As they were eating, He said, “Truly, I say to you that one of you will betray Me.”
Jesus said, “You will all fall away, because it is written, “I will strike down the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered.” (Mark 14:27)
“Whoever I kiss, He is the one; seize Him and lead Him away under guard.” And coming, Judas immediately went to Him, saying, “Rabbi!” and kissed Him. ( Mark 14:44-45)
And they all left him and fled. –Mark 14:50
Often times in my life, I have pondered deeply the Garden of Gethsemane and Jesus’ anguish. The gospel narratives describe His agony in these terms: “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death.” In His darkest hour, Jesus prayed, “Let this cup pass from Me.” And yes, He was referring to His crucifixion. But the crucifixion wasn’t just about the physical pain. In its essence, the crucifixion was about rejection. Rejection by his religious leaders. Rejection by the world. Rejection by friends and family. Betrayal and denial.
Was that part of the agony Jesus faced as He wept and wrestled with God in the Garden? It doesn’t seem fair, does it? He was the answer to the world’s problems. He was Truth Incarnate. And they spit in His face. Jesus knew they would reject Him even before He walked on the earth. Yet He was willing to face the Fear of Rejection because He loved us passionately. Jesus faced the Fear of Vulnerability by showing His love in arms spread out over a wooden cross. Vulnerability did cost Him everything. It did make the world reject Him. Yet was it worth it?
[Let us fix] our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2)
You see, here’s the thing: Most of the rejection throughout my life has been because of Christ. In my high school youth group, my rejection came when I wouldn’t follow the kids in their outward sins. It came when I wanted something deeper in my walk with God. Rejection has come in the wake of my desire to challenge others to Love Christ, to be honest about brokenness, to heal. rejection has come in my passion for following God Himself, not man-made theological constructions and legalistic religion. Ever since I became a Christ follower, my desire has been Truth. And many—even Christians—cannot face the Truth. The Truth that will shatter our self-seeking, self-righteous lives and change us inside and out.
And here’s another thing: Most of the people who have rejected me were more harmful to me than good. They either used me, judged me, or didn’t want to follow Christ. Some of them were stuck in deep sin and didn’t want to repent. Some of them didn’t love me, they only wanted a version of me that they liked. Consistently throughout my life, rejection has been a part of God’s plan to protect me. He is a good Father who never takes away things without a reason (see PART I post).
Do you fear rejection? Do you fear vulnerability? There are so many reasons we have the fears we do. So many wounds that need to be healed. So many rejections that can leave scars that take years to heal from. But it worth it to give these rejections to Christ and ask that He heal and take away the fears.
When my identity is in Christ, I don’t have to afraid of what people will do or say to me anymore. I am called to share in His sufferings. This isn’t easy. I struggle still with the Fears of Rejection and Vulnerability so much in my life. It is a battle that is not over. I must be vulnerable and share myself with the world. Yet I fear. It is a battle that is worth it, so I can share Christ in the midst of a hurting world.
For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; and He bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. (1 Peter 2:20-24)