My heart pounded as I read the subject line “Announcing the winners of this year’s devotional challenge.” At first, I debated with myself whether I should open the email right away or wait till later just to give my nerves some time to settle. Well, my nerves would just have to get with the program. This was the email I had been dying to read. This was the moment I had been waiting for. I just couldn’t contain my excitement nor curiosity any longer.
So, I took a deep breath and clicked open.
My eyes quickly scanned the words on the screen, hoping and secretly begging God to find my name somewhere. After reading the email at least 10 times, my heart was broken. My name was nowhere to be found in the email. The devotional I had spent hours crafting, weeks editing, and a million prayers over wasn’t chosen as one of the best. And for some reason this loss translated into “Nora isn’t good enough.” “Nora isn’t wanted.” “Nora isn’t loved.”
Rejection is someone I’ve known for a long time. Ever since I was a little girl, rejection found me and stuck by my side like a faithful friend should. It was there when I got my first pair of glasses at age 7. It was a loyal friend when my body started to take shape and form in the land of stick figures. It was with me when I wasn’t chosen for the team, when my clothes weren’t cool enough, even when my hair decided it had a mind of its own. As I got older, rejection changed it’s game plan. Now, I wasn’t just the awkward young girl trying to figure out who I am. I also had become the girl that wasn’t worth pursuing causing me to wonder if I’ll ever have the chance of walking down an aisle wearing a white dress.
Then, one day rejection decided it was finally time to move our relationship forward. Strangely, it chose a great day to do it. It was a sunny day. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky. My friend and I had just finished eating dinner in the college’s campus cafeteria. We were headed out the door on a mission. A few weeks prior, we started serving at a homeless shelter together. This shelter had become so special to us because it was a shelter that provided a home for families in transition. My friend and I would go once a week to do the one thing we loved the most…playing with the children at the shelter. As we walked swiftly with bottled joy towards the city’s transit station, we started talking about life.
I mean everything.
From our favorite childhood memory to our future plans and ambitions. Nothing was really off the table for discussion. We were good friends. I trusted him. He trusted me. The best part is we both loved Jesus. Nothing could change that. However, somehow rejection found a way to show up that day.
I don’t remember exactly how our conversation led to hair but there we were walking and talking about hair.
“I love girls with silky, long hair. I mean really long hair,” he announced.
“Really?” I said but I wasn’t that surprised. “But how long? Long, like down her back?” I was curious. I had to ask.
He nodded. “So, you like a horse mane or something?” I said jokingly.
“No! I just think long hair is attractive,” he said feeling a little misunderstood. “I’m sorry. No offense to you,” he said as he turned to look at me. “But I don’t like African American hair. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it. It’s cool and all. But I want hair that I can actually run my hands through. So, I could never marry a black girl.”
I was so thankful that we had finally made it to the transit station stop. There was no way I could let him see the shock on my face nor the tears that were forming in the corner of my eyes. Thoughts swirled in my head. His words were like a familiar song. A tune I knew very well. His words stung. His words hurt. His words did damage that day. This was the day rejection was no longer just a familiar feeling anymore. Rejection had moved in … hanging pictures on the walls, arranging furniture, and making itself a home in my heart.
Leah, the wife of Jacob, knew rejection very well. Her life can be defined as unloved, unwanted, and unfair. She was older than her sister. She wasn’t as beautiful as her sister. She was not the object of her husband’s affection. In fact, her husband preferred another woman over her – her very own sister! She spent most of her marriage trying to earn her husband’s heart.
With every pregnancy she yearned for her husband to love her.
“Leah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Reuben, for she said, “It is because the Lord has seen my misery. Surely my husband will love me now” Genesis 29:32.
Years passed. She bears two more children for Jacob, and with each child she hoped that maybe this would turn her husband’s heart towards her.
Yet Jacob still loved Rachel more than Leah Genesis 29:30.
How did she live so long with a man that would never love her as much as he loved someone else? How did she look into the eyes of her children every day knowing they were not born out of love but out of hope for love? How did she live with the pain of rejection each day?
Rejection hurts. Rejection is ugly. Rejection leaves your heart feeling broken, lonely, empty and sometimes even confused.
Although Leah was rejected by her husband, she was seen by God. At least three times in Genesis 29, we see God drawing close to Leah.
“When the Lord saw that Leah was not loved… It is because the Lord has seen my misery…Because the Lord heard that I am not loved…. Genesis 29:31-33
This is the beauty of rejection: the fact that God is near.
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18 ESV
We all will experience rejection at some point in our lives. Rejection will always be at our doorstep, looking for a crack to find its way into our hearts. But in those moments we can find strength in knowing that our God is also there. He hears us. He sees us. He is for us. When the world says “no,” our God will say “yes!” Yes, I see her. Yes, I hear her. Yes, I love her.
No, I didn’t get my devotional published. Yes, my friend broke my heart into a million pieces that day. You know what? That’s more than OK! Because just like Leah, God uses even the hard stuff to draw me closer to Him. To be honest, if the gift of being closer to Jesus is a result of being rejected by others, well, then rejection is a beautiful thing.
Nora Tatina was born and raised in the Inner City of Detroit, Michigan. She came to Christ at an early age. Her desire to be used by God led her to do both her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees at Moody Bible Institute and Moody Theological Seminary. She also received a MA in TESOL from Biola University and has taught ESL for over 10 years. Nora has a heart for discipling and mentoring women, a love for God’s Word, a passion to see lives transformed by the power of God’s Word, and a desire to see women equipped to serve and lead in the local church. Nora serves and leads as the director of women’s ministry at New Life Community Church in Brookfield, Illinois where her husband Rick Tatina is the pastor. Nora and Rick reside in the west suburbs of Chicago where they are humble parents to their 4 year-old daughter and 1 year old baby boy.
We thank you, Nora, for contributing to this month’s publication of Titus-two.com and sharing about the love of God found in the hard place of rejection.
You are loved to Heaven and Back, Girlfriend ~~
LindaRJohnson, TitusTwo Visionary