October 20, 2016
“Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest.” Hebrews 3:1 (NIV)
The year was 1982. I was in the 7th grade.
With frizzy brown hair and bucked teeth, I walked down the pea-green hallway of my middle school. It was the day after student council elections.
The day after my classmates confirmed what I’d so desperately feared: If you didn’t have beauty and a boyfriend, no one would vote for you.
I shuffled toward my locker, wishing I were invisible. I kept my eyes down while I willed my feet to just keep walking. Finally, my locker was in sight. That glorious metal box was where I could sort of escape this world of critical girls with cute outfits and spiral-permed hair. I could hide my face, let the tears slip and pretend to be busy shuffling books.
But instead of finding respite in that tiny metal space, I found one of my election posters plastered to the front, with the word “loser” scrawled across the top. How do you quickly hide a poster-sized proclamation by the world that you aren’t good enough, cool enough, pretty enough or accepted enough?
Books dropping, girls laughing, tape ripping and poster crunching were the sounds throbbing in my ears as the poster board resisted my attempts to ball it up small enough to fit into the mouth of the hallway trashcan.
“Please fit, please fit, please fit! Oh God, please help this stupid poster from this stupid election with my stupid face on it disappear into this stupid trashcan!”
The bell rang. And as all the “normal” people scampered past me, I heard Stephanie’s voice like a dagger’s death blow whisper, “Loser.”
I turned and saw my one confidant. My one friend. My one secret-holder, being welcomed into the popular girl’s circle. Her public rejection of me was her ticket in to the crowd we’d secretly loathed together. Together.
I sank beside the trashcan where the poster slowly untwisted on the ground in front of me. Loser.
I remembered this one night recently as I sat in front of a group of young high school students. Girls who vulnerably shared how hard peer relationships can be. They described tangled relationships and feelings of loneliness so consuming they sometimes wished the world would open up and swallow them whole.
I understood their feelings all too well. I have known the sting of loneliness. I knew it in the flat-chested stage of middle school. And even now, as it continues into the sagging-chested stage of adulthood. Relationships can be hard no matter what your age.
And here’s the real kicker.
I always thought my ticket to acceptance would have come had I won that school election. Not so. For I’ve discovered on the other side of achievements, if you were lonely before you win, you’ll be lonely after you win. No amount of outward success can give you inward acceptance.
I’ve only been able to find that in the comfort of Jesus.
One quick glance at our key verse confirms that Jesus is exactly the One we need to look to — “Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest,” >Hebrews 3:1.
Thoughts fixed on, heart filled with, life defined by Jesus.
The One who will never reject us. The One who knows what it feels like to be rejected — though He should have been the most accepted. The One who will sit with us and remind us rejection from man doesn’t equal rejection from God. The One who whispers to each of us, “The voices of shame and rejection can come at you, but they don’t have to reside in you.”
I wish I could go back and preach this truth to my 7th-grade self, but since I can’t, I’ll preach it to my grown-up heart. And to yours too. We are loved. And no person’s rejection can ever take that love away from us.
Father God, thank You for the reminder I don’t have to let the labels from others stick to me. You say I am loved. You say I am chosen. You say I’m forever Yours. And Yours is the voice I’m choosing to believe. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Isaiah 53:3a, “He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.” (NIV)