Have you ever been rejected by an institution, church, family, etc.? Rejection rocks us at our core and has unintended consequences for how we attack our life. It can take years for us to overcome the resulting self-doubt and shame. However despite these experiences - both real and perceived - there is hope.
While living and working as a minister in a trailer park I spent time with a woman named Tina. She and her daughter attended multiple events at various churches throughout the summer and genuinely enjoyed the programs each one had to offer. After attending one weeklong VBS the family rode the church van to attend that church one Sunday. Later that week Tina recounted her experience to me.
Tina said, "I will never go back to that church." I asked her what happened that caused her to be so upset. She stated the people judged them for the way they were dressed. Some where even so bold to tell her that they should dress nicer the next time they come. The mother exclaimed, "These are the nicest clothes we own." As I listened to her pain and shame I was in complete disbelief!
Sometimes we get our priorities jumbled and forget the true purpose of what we are doing. Rules and tradition can cause us to be stuffy and unkind to others. It is important to keep ourselves in check and continue to ask questions centering ourselves on our primary purpose. Hopefully in the answers we will find a way to truly welcome others and be a participatory part of their seeking.
Next Part of the Story
Her experience led Tina to ask me questions about our little trailer park church. She and her daughter started attending regularly, occasionally in their pajamas. After some time Tina chose to commit to a new relationship with God and was baptized in the small blowup pool in our yard.
Rejection vs Acceptance
I tell you this story because when we put expectations on others without really knowing their story we can create divisions. Loving people for who they are is what really matters. Luckily the initial rejection led this mother and her daughter to a place where they could be loved.
My church, Community of Christ, is not without its faults. Unfortunately policies and practices in our denomination have been unjust and made people feel judged, inadequate, or unwelcome. More recently Community of Christ has made great strides to become a welcoming body, to seek out and eliminate injustice, and to pursue the wholistic peace and love of Christ. This progress does not diminish any hurt you may feel, but please feel comforted that change is possible.
If you are still searching for a place to grow spiritually with others in love and acceptance I encourage you to locate a Community of Christ. Since attending someplace new can be uncomfortable I would be more than happy to answer any questions you may have or connect you personally with someone in your area.
Does this story resonate with you? Have you experienced rejection from a community, church, or institution? This pain is real but I hope it does not stop you from searching further spiritually. I hope you find a community that will accept you for who you are. I invite you to share with us whether you have found that place along your faith journey or not. You are welcome and your experience is valued and appreciated.
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Have you ever thought you were not good enough? Well if you have you are like most of us. If you really strip yourself down to the core of who you are - past the roles you have assumed, the successes, the failures - what would you find? What needs to happen for you to really examine the inner depths of who you are? That’s who I want to know and that's who this community needs to see.
Who are you at the very center? What are your core values? If all your worldly responsibilities were eliminated, what remains? Self-examination helps us grow as individuals. It helps us identify who we really are and what we stand for. By peeling back the layers we expose the raw person that others are desiring to know. Our spiritual journeys require us to dig deeper into who we are. It’s scary to think about, but it can be freeing and worthwhile to live your life as who you truly are instead of what others expect you to be.
Give Up On Perfection
The pursuit of perfection is an endless journey. As hard as it may be it is imperative to acknowledge that perfection simply does not exist. Unfortunately many people spend their lives striving for an impossible goal that leaves them feeling inadequate, unfulfilled, and unsuccessful. We are all adequate in our individual abilities. Every person feels fulfilled by unique hobbies, interests, and actions. Success looks different in different people. It is better for us to to accept who we are and grow in self-actualization than to constantly worry if we measure up to some fanciful image. We should not strive for a precise destination or a perfect persona. We should instead strive to understand ourselves and to continually yet gradually grow with love, understanding, and purpose.
I personally struggle daily to be my best self rather than striving to meet others' expectations. I fall back into common roles, minimize my successes, and say or do things I probably shouldn't. I fall short as a husband, father, and son. I find myself saying I'm not good enough, wishing I could change things about myself, rethink my actions, or take back words I have said. I know I can't change the past but I hope my awareness is enough to help me grow and develop in the future. I have to look past the the shame, doubt, and guilt in order to really see me. I need to realize these are the emotions I feel but they do not portray the entire picture of who I am. Who I am is an ongoing process. I need to take time to examine myself, and not be ashamed of what I find. I have to remind myself what God thinks about me...and then believe it.
What God Thinks?
God sees your beauty, God knows your worth. God believes in your giftedness and sees your compassion. God knows your pain, and is in your healing. God loves you for who you are. God values your thoughts and opinions and believes in your choices. God is all around you and through you. God is excited about your journey and where it may lead. God has built courage into your DNA and knows you have what it takes. God has given you strength to walk down the paths of love and peace. God believes in your ability to create equitable relationships in the world around you. God longs for a deeper relationship with you - a long embrace past due. God welcomes all of you at anytime on any day. God delights in you!
See With Your Eyes
So are you good enough? Look in the mirror, look past the guilt, shame, and inadequacies you feel. See yourself - a child of God - and tell yourself you are good enough, because you are, and you always will be.
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While visiting the island of Aruba, our tour guide invited us to create a tower of rocks on a beach. He explained that after assembling it we could make a wish. I carefully began choosing my rocks and placing them on top of each other. Despite my focus, my stack still fell. I began the process of rebuilding it knowing I had to use different placements and sometimes different stones all together to achieve perfect balance. Finally my tower stood successfully allowing me to then make a wish. While I do not remember what I wished that day, I do remember the act of stacking the rocks. The careful placement of each stone, the disappointment of it falling, and the repeated process of rebuilding it in a different way.
Today I reflect on this moment as a symbol of our faith journeys. We stack the stones of our faith teachings and experiences, carefully placing them with hope. Then when something doesn't fit or we begin questioning what we have always believed our tower shakes and comes crashing down. With a demolished stack we are confused and hurt over the experience asking what is the point. I hope that in the midst of the confusion we eventually find ourselves in a place of understanding, recognizing that all of our stones help build our path. Our experiences have a place in our journey, but they do not define it. So with a fresh, clean surface we begin to rebuild a structure, hoping to find balance with both old and new stones. Finally the rocks stand alone and we are able to reflect on the path we have taken thus far on our faith journey.
Where are you at on your faith journey? Are you building your first tower? Are you discouraged after dismantling and deconstructing your original faith? Or are you in the process of rebuilding and reconfiguring something new? Wherever you find yourself on your personal journey please share with us. Know you are not alone and others have walked similar paths from which we all can learn.
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The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of Community of Christ. We believe individuals should be allowed to have their own opinions and be at different places in their faith journey.