This admission embarrasses me, but in an attempt to certify my understanding, I’ll share it: as a kid I craved popularity. I didn’t just desire to be one of the “in” chicks, but I wanted to be liked by everyone. I wanted my parents to enjoy me as well as my peers. Maybe I craved groups more than the average kid because I was a home-schooled P.K. and often felt left out and overlooked. In sixth grade (I attended a private school at the time), for some untold reason–perhaps it was my thick glasses, my clothing, or my strive for academic excellence–I wasn’t accepted by the “six”popular girls. I didn’t use enough hairspray or lip gloss or flirt with the boys I wasn’t even interested in. I had one or two friends, but I had a lot of “enemies” too–their disdain was something I couldn’t understand.
A year or two later, I attempted to fit in with a crowd that used the “s” word as their main form of syntax. They discussed things like Offspring and Nirvana and physical stuff with boys that left me a little clueless. I altered my syntax and had my grandma buy me CD’s my mom would have never permitted. I skipped classes, passed notes, and rolled my eyes at all the appropriate times. But, I was miserable. Because even though I was “accepted”, I’d have been rejected for the real me (if she’d have been brave enough to come out).
Sophomore year of high school, my heart broke over a boy (someone I thought I’d one day marry…when I was old enough to date him that is), and my best friend at the time decided to deceive me (naive and innocent girl I was) about what she was actually doing on the weekends (getting high) while perpetually lying to me about her lifestyle. Though I know neither person intentionally chose to hurt me, their actions left my heart in little chopped up pieces–afraid to trust or hope again.
After my family moved 4 hours south, I attempted to fit in with yet another group that didn’t really have space for me. So, I waited nearly two years and prayed that God would somehow heal my heart and bring me the friendships I so desperately craved. College orientation came and God answered that prayer, blessing me with more friends than I could have imagined. I felted included and even wanted.
But, my battle with rejection and insecurity was hardly over.
I was interested in a few too many guys–ones that didn’t reciprocate the desire. One even had the audacity to tell me he was hanging out with me as a physical substitute for the girl he really liked (several hours away). Was that all I was?
As a result, I allowed myself to be swept away by a co-worker that barely claimed to know God. But, he adored me and bought me gifts and drove out to see me as much as time permitted. He quickly told me he loved me and dreamed about our future together. My head knew this wouldn’t work, but my heart liked the band-aid and the caress.
A few months into our dating relationship, my brother and I were driving, and he stopped the van and told me that I needed to break it off. Something about his gentle tone and his genuine concern made me pause. And then he told me, “You deserve better.” Did I really? To know what I deserved, didn’t I have to know who I was?
Although my parents deeply loved me and I’d always felt accepted by them, I’d struggled my whole life to find a place that I “deserved” to be–a place where I belonged and was wanted (even missed if I wasn’t there). I’d so often felt like an extra piece in a box (just hanging around in case the essential piece ever went missing)–a fill-in for the lead actress.
I’d love to claim complete freedom in this area of my life, but the truth is, I still crave being wanted and fear rejection (I suppose many do). Pitiful admission alert: I’m the woman who doesn’t plan too many parties because I’m afraid no one would show up.
Perhaps you are reading these words and want to laugh. After all, everyone wrestles through some form of rejection. Perhaps yours was a childhood bully or maybe your spouse got up and walked away one day. Regardless of your own experience, you know what “I don’t want you” feels like.
In 1951, Nat King Cole recorded a song that captured the whimsical bliss of being unforgettable to a person–the essence of being loved and wanted. I’ve always liked that song: what a thought–to leave such a mark on someone else’s heart. Having a spouse that truly calls you “best friend” does a lot to heal those broken places, but if you make your lover the source of your security, every misspoken word, impatient response, or mark of apathy will wound you deeper than it should. Yes, God created us for community, but only He can satiate our deep need for loving acceptance. In Him, we find our fulfillment; in Him, our heart is whole. Sure, being left off the guest list will still hurt, but He promises to never leave us nor forsake us. He promises to love us completely (warts and all) and to remain devoted forever. What a love that is!
When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:17-18
God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are. I Cor. 1:28
Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before me. Isaiah 43:16
You whom I took from the ends of the earth, and called from its farthest corners, saying to you, “You are my servant, I have chosen you and not cast you off; Isaiah 41:9
Whoever comes to me I will never cast out. John 6:37