Once I learn to hear the language of rejection, I recognize it everywhere - in my child, in friends, in strangers, in myself. It’s in the hunched shoulders, the hoodie pulled over a bowed head. It’s in the headphones snaking from ear to iPod and the pants that sag below skinny hips. It’s in the disinterested hover on the edges of the family circle, the way he pretends he wasn’t listening anyway. It’s in the cruel words and the blank response to others’ pain. It’s in the way his eyes shift when someone asks, “Are all these your children?”
I know that the balm is in Christ’s unconditional love, but I seem helpless to apply it. The wounds of rejection are tender and vulnerable places and the victim lashes out to keep us from them.
We head out for a walk one afternoon underneath a sky blazing blue. A couple of the kids take off for a run with the dogs and I start out at a brisk clip. I’m a quarter mile down the path when I turn around to see if he’s still behind us. I see him moving slowly, hands in his pockets, lost in the world he’s fashioned out of rap music and fury. I want to get on with my walk, but his silence is screaming at me and so I wait until he catches up.
He only takes one earbud out long enough to ask what I want and then shrugs and moves off before I can answer. He wants me to feel it, this particular sting of being unwanted.
“Hey,” I say, running after him, “Can we talk for awhile?” He shrugs again and tells me I can talk, but he’s not listening. I fall back and into my own thoughts while he trudges on. I want so badly to hug him, erase all this hurt with a bit of affection like I used to do when he was tiny, but that time has slipped away.
While I’m walking I replay the last few days at home. They’ve been hard days, full of conflict and stress. As if I were an outside observer, I watch myself when he comes in the room, see the way I barely glance at him, protecting myself from whatever words he’s going to throw at me. Watch as I smirk knowingly when he gives me some excuse to cover up what I think is a lie. I listen to my voice and hear dismissiveness, coldness, scorn. I get exasperated at his failures. I lecture him about how he’s not trustworthy, not a hard worker, not trying.
By the time we get home I feel sick. I see right through the excuses I’ve used to justify my behavior and right through to the truth: I am part of this sad cycle of rejection and pain. I am failing at the one thing necessary.
And now at last, when I see myself through his eyes, when I stop thinking it’s only my child with a problem, when I understand that pride and self-righteousness cannot carry the weight of unconditional love, now the Word comes to me and I hear Him.
“…and so, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved…”
To all of us rejected, who have been lifted out of shame and chosen by the living God, sealed with His righteousness and the welcome of His name,
“put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience;”
let these qualities be your garments, let them clothe you from head to toe, let them be the vision with which you see others and the soil from which all your actions spring.
“bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.”
Dear one, bear the weight of those in pain, forgive them. Just as the Lord bore our weakness and failure all the way to the shedding of His own blood, so also should you.
“And beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.”
And after you have shown compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forbearance and forgiveness, then love. Don’t hold back. Love is what will bind the rejected into families.
“And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts…and be thankful.”
Don’t be frightened, don’t hold back to protect yourself, let the peace of Christ rule the day and rule your heart. Give thanks, for this is how the Lord Himself has rescued you.
“Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”
Now this word of Christ, this beautiful acceptance can be your language; let it flow from you. All day long let psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, thankfulness and wisdom, come from your mouth and it will have life and healing in it because now you are walking in the truth…
I hear the noise of his feet, heavy on the stairs. When he enters the room, I take my tentative first step. I look up at him, right into his eyes, and I smile.
to be continued every day for the rest of my life....
(part one: the heart howl of the wounded)