Blog | Lindsey Smallwood

Rejection

Shaking the Dust Off

Best of...Lindsey Smallwood

Today I'm over at the Redbud Writer's Guild blog, a community of women where I'm so proud to belong. The topic is rejection, which I'm learning, is never the end of the story...

I got rejected this week. 

It was an article, a story I was a really proud of, submitted to a prestigious magazine where a couple of my friends have been published recently. I'd polished the prose, even had someone look it over before I sent it in, only to receive a not-unfamiliar response. 

"Thank you for your submission but..."

Pricks of disappointment coupled with waves of insecurity began to wash over me. It's hard not to take it personally, to see someone else's lack of need or interest in your gifts as a statement of your value. My instinct is to self-criticize, picking myself apart and looking for weaknesses. And while a healthy amount of reflection is reasonable, cruising on the "I'm-so-lame" train doesn't help anyone...

I didn’t know this when I was younger. In my teens and twenties I let rejection tell untrue stories about me. After finding out that I wasn’t invited to a party or that I hadn’t gotten into to a program I was excited about, I would wallow, sometimes for weeks, in “Why (not) me’s?” and “They’re the ones missing out.” and “Maybe I’m not good enough’s…”

Oh man. So much missing the point.

The truth is if you want to be a person who accomplishes anything that matters, you have to take risks. Risks inevitably open up the possibility of failure and rejection. And when we find ourselves rejected, left out, looked over, wallowing is a waste. Those are moments instead to start anew, try again, finding new opportunities to use our gifts for God’s glory.

We have a great example in Jesus, who Peter described as “rejected by men but chosen in the sight of God.” Jesus was left out, despised, misunderstood by so many, but instead of holding onto that reality He clung to His identity as God’s beloved son. His focus was always on His mission, telling the truth about God everywhere He went. This is our model, living out our callings as beloved children of God, even when we find ourselves excluded from places we really want to belong.

It’s a lesson I keep learning.

When this summer I was passed over for a leadership position in a community group I’m involved with –

As I find myself adding another rejection letter to my file.

After Facebook shows me I wasn’t invited to a friend’s party.

Even though it feels personal, rejection is usually situational. It’s about timing, space and compatibility, it doesn’t speak to who we fundamentally are. The truest thing about us is that we are created and welcomed and wanted by a loving God. A God, who through Jesus, initiates a new kingdom where there is work to be done and not a lot of room for wallowing.

In my writing, my participation in local organizations, my friendships, my hope is to glorify the God who made me and gifted me with words and skills and relationships. I want to follow the kingdom way of Jesus, who encouraged his disciples to face rejection by shaking the dust off their feet and moving on toward new places of ministry and influence.

As I shake the dust off here in my corner of the kingdom, I’m remembering again that when following Jesus, rejection is never the end of the story.

 

This article originally appeared at The Redbud Post.

Opening the Thin Envelope

Lindsey Smallwood

It is such a pleasure to write with my friends over at Middle Places. If you haven't taken the time to read some of the other bloggers there, I encourage you to poke around. This months theme of being (re)Routed has lead to some really great writing. I'm sharing a story about dreams and rejection today - and praying you find hope to take your own brave steps. 

No one wants to get the thin envelope.

You've been there. Checking the mailbox everyday, hoping and dreaming and planning for the future, and then it comes, addressed to you. The return address is right, it's the school you want to get into or the company you hope to work for. But the slim profile betrays the news hidden inside.

"We regret to inform you..."

Rejection. Hopes deferred. Dreams stopped in their tracks. Usually softened by language about the talented applicant pool or hopes that you will reapply in the future. But the disappointing view of a longed-for possibly closing it's doors is never easy to take in.

In my final year as an undergraduate, I applied to a national teaching program. Honestly, I was not sure what I wanted to do. I clerked at a law firm as a part time job during college and considered law school. I found community in a campus ministry after I returned to campus from treatment for an eating disorder and thought about working in ministry as a full time job. One of my classes required community service hours tutoring at an elementary school and I'd enjoyed working with kids, which lead to my application to the teaching program.

It wasn’t just paperwork, I prepared a lesson plan and taught it to the interview panel. I answered questions based on case studies. I sat before a group of current teachers and responded to their queries about my experiences and motivations. I left the interview day tired and confident; going through the process left me sure that I would be a great teacher and optimistic that I would be selected.

Until the thin envelope came.

“Dear Lindsey, We regret to inform you…”

For a few days, I felt deep disappointment. I knew my application hadn’t been lost in a pile; they had really looked at me, asked me personal questions and watched me teach, and had decided I didn’t make the cut. I wasn’t sure what to do next.

My pastor encouraged me to consider ministry again, reminding me of how my gifts of teaching and connecting with people could be useful in that setting. I prayed for an open door, and, finding one, decided to pursue vocational church work. That opportunity lead to another and then another and for six years I worked in full time ministry.

As that season drew to a close and I was trying to decide what to do next, I felt drawn again to classroom teaching. But, having already applied and been rejected many years before, I was afraid to pursue that dream again. The door had closed. It seemed foolish to bring that hope back to life.

Heeding the counsel of some close friends and family, I decided to face the possibility of rejection and go through the process again. The pre-tests, the lesson plan, the group interview – I did it all. And six weeks later, to my surprise and delight, a big fat manila envelope filled my mailbox, welcoming me to the program and outlining my next steps.

My dream of teaching wasn’t lost when I was rejected from that program in college. It was rerouted. I just didn’t know it at the time. But in order to find the way back to my dream, I had to take a risk.

Most things worth doing are scary. Our dreams are worth risking rejection and failure. If you’re in the middle of a reroute in your own life, I challenge you to think about what brave steps you might need to take to find your way back to a dream long dreamt. Remember sweet friends, this is still just the middle of our stories.