While the holidays can be a joyous time with friends and family for some, for others Thanksgiving and Christmas can be some of the saddest and most depressing times of the year. Why? Rejection. The rejection many face from family and friends that leaves them feeling alone. Alone, even at a Thanksgiving dinner table surrounded by people. Alone, when they are at a Christmas gathering with lots of smiling faces, eggnog, and presents. The feelings of anxiety and depression often increase because of the guilt associated with thinking, “What is wrong with me? Why can’t I have a good time? Why can’t I connect with people?”
Sound familiar? It does to me because it was my life for years. I have good news though, things can change for you. They changed for me and I believe if you’ll open your heart to what I’m about to share, things will change for you. Here it goes:
My parents divorced when I was young and although I saw my Dad frequently we never really connected. When he re-married, I gained two step-sisters who I really looked up to. They were different from me. I was kind of a shy, quiet, and awkward as a child and teenager. Not really athletic, not really handsome, not really funny, and not really popular. They were both very attractive, great athletes, better students than me, and very popular. While I wanted them to really like me and I tried everything I could do to impress them, I just never could. All this planted seeds of “What’s wrong with me in my head?
Then came middle school. I became overweight. The fat jokes started. They begin to water the seeds of insecurity that had already been planted in me by my parents divorce and the cooler step-family I could never impress. I lived with my Mom and Stepdad and they struggled financially so we didn’t always have the nicest houses, cars, or best stuff. I wouldn’t even tell people where I lived because I didn’t want to give any more ammunition for my class-mates ridicule. To make matters worse, my parents church-hopped me all over the place and we went to some of the weirdest churches imaginable. Again, one more thing I had to hide from all the cool kids I so badly wanted to impress.
By the time I got to high school, I felt like a total reject. I spent most of my high school career trying to hide and remain unnoticed. I couldn’t handle the pain of any more rejection. For most of it I talked to as few people as possible so I could avoid being a target. If you are totally depressed at this point, it’s gonna get better, I promise – keep reading!
Finally, when I was 20, I started dating a girl that changed everything. She made me complete! With her I was faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive and could leap tall buildings in a single bound. Life had never been better and I had never felt so accepted. I began to believe in myself and take risks like trying to make friends or apply for challenging internships. Ok, I admit, those aren’t major risks for normal people, but for me they were huge because of how scarred I was by my childhood.
Then July 2001 came and in a few short weeks, the girl who I loved, who made me feel so accepted, decided I wasn’t good enough anymore. And there it all went. I hit rock bottom. Somebody may read this and be thinking, “Really? It was a college break-up. Happens all the time. You were 21 and had your whole life ahead of you. You could have just moved on.”
Believe me, if I could have just moved on, I would have. I couldn’t though because that’s how damaged I was. And it sent me into a spiral of depression I would never wish on anyone. The person who made me complete was gone. What’s worse, is because she was the person I trusted more than anyone, I now had a new fear. I was afraid I couldn’t trust anyone anymore, forever. Even if a miracle happened and someone great came into my life again, how could I know they wouldn’t leave me?
On top of hurting and imagining someone else embracing the one I loved, feeling like everything I had believed was a lie, and thinking no one would ever be in love with me again; I was gripped with fear that even if I did meet someone, there was no guarantee their feelings wouldn’t just change and they would leave me. The fear of the unknown and fear of uncertainty almost crippled me. I lost 25 pounds in less than two months. I couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep, and was utterly miserable to be around. I was broken. All I could think is why doesn’t anyone want me? What’s so wrong with me? Why am I not good enough? What do I have to change? Can I some how get her back?
In the midst of my pain, God reached out to me. He had a person share a passage of scripture with me that changed my life. It was Ephesians 1:6, that God had made me accepted in the beloved. I’ll never forget the first time I read that verse. Instantaneously, I knew the maker of the universe made me and he made me accepted.
God gave me a vision in my heart of being in his throne-room in front of Him while someone else was criticizing me. He then showed me the displeasure He had from their criticism because He didn’t agree with it. He then said, “Brian, anytime someone criticizes you, they don’t really have a problem with you, they have a problem with me!. You don’t have to apologize, and you don’t have to change! You are exactly like I want you!”
I was set free. I went from being afraid and constantly worried about what others thought of me to not caring at all because my Heavenly Father loved me and accepted me. And you know what? I started taking risks. Real risks. I started reaching out to people and make friends. 17 years later I have so many friends I can’t keep track of them all. I did outside sales, cold-calling on companies for years (a job where there is a lot of rejection) and God blessed me beyond my wildest dreams! My family uprooted our lives to move to Colorado so I could go to Bible College and follow a dream God put in my heart – ridiculously risky in a bad economy with 2 small kids. And now I’m a Pastor and I bare my soul in front of people every weekend!
Am I bragging on me? No. It’s all Jesus. The root of everything God has done and will do in my life goes back to knowing I’m accepted. It made me secure! It made me bold! Do I still get rejected? Sure, but I don’t care. It’s not my problem the folks who don’t accept me don’t think like God. I feel sorry for them because I’m awesome. Just ask Jesus.
I’ve told this story hundreds of times, but as I write it again, I still get emotional. I know what its like to be so alone and broken that you just want to end it all. I know what it’s like to be willing to change anything about yourself to be loved and even when you change, it’s not enough to earn the love of others. I want to encourage you that Jesus loves you today! And whatever you face this holiday season, He is with you! And if others reject you because of something they don’t like about you or some past mistake you made, just pray for them. Jesus dealt with your past so that’s gone and He made your quirks and He thinks they are awesome! He thinks you are awesome and He wants to show you off to the rest of creation! You don’t have to apologize for a thing! You are perfect.
Now go take some risks, meet some people, live and adventure, and have fun! You are secure in God’s hands!