This summer, I’ve renewed my love of the skort. It looks like I’m wearing a skirt, but there are shorts underneath. It’s basically a miracle piece of clothing. Anyway, I pulled on a skort the other day and felt something brush the back of my leg. I was a little flustered but didn’t think too much about it. Then, I bent over to pull on my sandal. When I stood up, I felt like I was being pulled back down. That was when I realized that a thread from the hem of the skort had run down my leg and was now under my foot in my shoe. I pulled the sandal off, grabbed scissors, and clipped the string. Problem solved with respect to the skort, but that errant thread mirrored a bothersome train of thought that had been dragging me down, threatening to unravel my peace of mind.
In my herculean efforts to protect my sixteen-year-old daughter from rejection and hurt, I found myself pressuring her to take actions that differed from my experiences in my teens and early twenties. When things didn’t go her way, I would hurt, but not just for her. A visceral pain bubbled up. At first, I thought I could brush away what was troubling me. But then I unearthed a strong thread made up of my own rejection and hurt that had woven itself around my heart because I’d never truly dealt with it. I began dwelling on friendships that failed; boys who broke my heart; job opportunities that fell through; publishers that didn’t want my writing; and on and on. I cried more than I had in a long time.
I wished I could take a pair of scissors and cut that cord completely so that it would no longer trouble me, but an easy fix was not possible. I discovered that this strand of unworthiness was embedded in my mind and heart more than I’d ever realized. I couldn’t untangle my thoughts from the past and their intrusion into the present. I knew that I couldn’t ignore the strangle hold of this particular string any longer. I read a spiritual book on rejection. I talked to my therapist. I prayed asking God to help me with this burden.
Throughout this process, I realized that I still questioned God about why particular things had turned out as badly as they had. Even though in most cases, in the end, everything ultimately worked out for the best, I still felt that God denied me in certain ways. That God said no because I wasn’t up to par or because I couldn’t discern his will in the circumstances. That God himself had essentially told me over and over that I was not wanted. It’s quite enough to be rejected by people and institutions, and quite another to feel you’ve been rejected by God. And that cord wrapped around me might have contained more than a little resentment toward God.
But then, something shifted. A new thought dawned on me. Instead of God being perfectly fine with my numerous rejections, I wondered if God might have been upset for me, along with me, when I was rejected. Like in the distant past when the boy with whom I’d been spending a lot of time said he didn’t have feelings for me beyond friendship, was God angry and agitated on my behalf? Because that was certainly how I felt. Perhaps God thought I’d been wronged as well.
I don’t assign wrongdoing to God when bad things happen to other people, like illness or natural disasters. When it came to my personal experiences though, I always tried to figure out why God thought I was wrong, had failed, or was less than. I made the mistake of laying responsibility for my rejections at God’s feet. But what if God wasn’t trying to punish me or teach me a lesson every single time I felt rejected? When I concentrated on God’s loving nature and ventured to trust that he was on my side, my perspective began to change. I started to rethink the way I viewed the past and my heart began to feel less constrained.
I’m not saying that everything is now perfect. I don’t believe I’ve cut the string so that it no longer binds me at all. But the oft quoted verse, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” took on new meaning for me. Romans 8:31. If I can believe that God stood with me in those times of rejection, feeling the pain as I did, then I can start to reclaim my worthiness. I feel that God showed me how to gradually loosen the thread of the past’s hold on me. God was with me then, and God is with me now. Caring for me, suffering with me at times, and leading me to a place of eventual healing.