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Friday, November 22, 2013

An open letter, post failure/rejection

Or, a pep talk to myself, from a short time in my garden praying.

It's been another one of those weeks.  Last night as I held the sobbing mother of the fourth child I'd pronounced dead in a week, holding her hand, preaching, praying, aiming for firm compassion and sympathetic truth, I was spent.  I came home profoundly exhausted.  For me failure and rejection look like stiff grey dead babies, or the tense juggling of too few hands for too much work as another issue arises that means someone has to go.  For some people dear to my heart, it looks like this:  a limbo of not-yet-picked in the too-slow med school app process in spite of a near-perfect gpa at an ivy league school, a rejection for one of two summer programs in spite of being top 5% of class in an elite military academy, the SAT debacle and waiting to hear from colleges, being cut from a sports team early this term, and lastly being rejected by staff in an application for national honor society in spite of grades and activities and service.  Yeah, that's kids 1 to 5 lately.

So in case that rings true for others, here are the garden thoughts of today.

1.  It's not all about me, but God's glory.  My failure or rejection is a small subplot in a very large story that centers on bigger things.  Like the redemption of the world.  When Lazarus' sisters and friends said "If you had been here our brother would not have died" (a line that was unintentionally quoted pretty much verbatim to me after a death this week) they didn't know the bigger good that would come, for the glory of God (John 11).  I read this on a friend's blog  "we must seek to cultivate a mindset that will not accept the suffering, injustice, oppression, idolatry, sin, selfishness, materialism, brokenness, sorrow, misery hopelessness, bondage, apathy, compromise, division, sorrow, … that we should not accept this world in its fallenness as natural, normal or inevitable.  Passionate, persistent intercessory kingdom prayer dies when God’s people become insensitive or reconciled to the fallen world’s status quo. We saw we must nurture a proper faith perspective about our Father in heaven. "  That puts life back in perspective.  There are important battles being fought, and I can't see yet how it all fits together and makes cross-perspective sense.

2.  Your loss is likely someone else's gain.  In this world, not everyone can get into their choice of school or society.  There are quotas, and if you lose, then the spot goes to someone who might need it more.  Whenever I think of my colleague's baby NOT being born preterm I am GLAD to do some extra work.  Grace is infinite and God does not have to choose favorites, but in this world, zero-sum still prevails. (Rom 8:36)

3.  There are usually kernels of truth in even the hardest rejections.  When that 4th baby died, I presented the case to my expert Dr. Erika who was generally reassuring but also had some teaching points.  Try to look through the sense of injustice to find ways to accept criticism and grow.  We learn through loss, we grow when we come up against the scourging of life.  Even Jesus did (Heb 5:8; 12:3-7).

4.  Seize the opportunity to do good.  Literally, to those that have hurt you.  I am not good at this, I would rather punish them.  But smile, shake hands, and don't let them get you down.  Look for ways to actually serve them and make their life better.  This makes no sense, but Jesus told us to do it Matt 5:44-45.  I have actually tried it in small ways, and it is more powerful in changing MY attitude than anything else.  But it also might lead to breakthroughs in the hearts of others.  This is where the Kingdom shines.

5.  Embrace the cross.  Jesus was despised and rejected (Is 53:3).  We're not living in a popularity contest.  The rubber meets the road when you take up your cross after a man who was willing to take some heat and not change.  Yes, rejection and failure usually help us learn something important for growth.  But sometimes they are just part of being in the path of evil, of living in a fallen world, of other peoples' problems.  I like to make people happy, and keep people alive.  But (see #1) there are times when we have to hold on to our calling, to love, to work hard, and to not worry about what other people think.

6.  And last but not least, remember love.  Being loved, and giving love.  The absolute truth about us is that we are created uniquely gifted to reflect some aspect of God's truth.  God saw all that he had made, and it was very good . . our kids' first Bible memory verse from Genesis 1.  Sin has marred each of us, but fundamentally the deepest truth is love.  We are loved by God.  My five great people are loved by me, and when push comes to shove I prefer them to anyone else I know in a tough spot--they are loyal, strong, creative thinkers, tireless workers, with a clever sense of humor and an eye for irony.  They are the kind of people whom you want beside you when you're fighting a war, having a baby, cooking a meal, building a camp, living the Gospel.

7.  Bonus, because 7 is a Biblical number: spend more time with dogs than people for a day, and everything looks better.  Which relates to #6, because dogs help ground you in the reality of God's unconditional love.


Bobbi said...

Thanks once again for your transparency. Appreciated your heart being torn not just by the tough hospital week, but by so many "could have beens" for your kids. Know the pain. Know the way of letting God's work unfold. Thankful that you had the time in the garden. Bobbi Campbell

scruffy said...

i just want to let you hear from one of those whom God touches through your trials and willingness to share. i won't stop praying for you. Nor will i ever look at my failures the same way again...

Thank you, grace and peace of our Lord and Daddy

Sangoma said...

Am really happy about reading this,i like such stories.Do you know where i can find similar ones like this? Again thanks for your writting